Three Fishermen thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case X, Shelf 354, Box K

Three Fishermen

Photograph
ca 1849 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Photographer: Benjamin Brecknell Turner

Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815-1894) was one of the first, and remains one of the greatest, British photographers. He began practising photography in 1849 according to the ‘calotype’ technique patented in 1841 by the British inventor of photography W. H. Fox Talbot (1800-1877), taking out a license directly from him. Turner exhibited at the world’s first public photographic exhibition, held at London’s Society of Arts in 1852, where he was singled out by a reviewer from the Times as one of the best contributors. In 1855 he won a medal at the Paris Exhibition Universelle and continued exhibiting his photographs in photographic society exhibitions across Britain until the 1880s.

Turner is best known for his bold and large-scale (30 x 40 cm) albumen prints from calotype negatives showing rural English scenes in the picturesque tradition: ruined abbeys, castles, farmhouses and the rural landscape. However, he also made accomplished portraits of family, friends, and fellow photographers, and for these he often used the newer wet collodion on glass process.

Turner earned his living from running a successful tallow chandler’s business in the Haymarket, London, making candles and saddle soap. Rather than the professional photographers, it was the Gentleman-amateurs like Turner who contributed the most significantly to the rapid technical and aesthetic development of the medium that occurred in the 1850s. They furthered discussion through meetings and journals, exchanged experimental and technical findings and photographic prints and exhibited in a network of clubs and societies devoted to the art of the photograph. Turner played an active role in such bodies in his role as a founder member, and later vice-president of the Photographic Society of London.

This selection of photographs encompasses Turner’s earliest experiments in photography, made barely ten years after the announcement of the invention of the medium.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Calotype negative, waxed
Brief Description
Waxed calotype negative by Benjamin Brecknell Turner, image of three fishermen standing next to one another
Physical Description
Waxed calotype negative depicting three men, sailors or fishermen, standing in a line.
Dimensions
  • Height: 15.5cm
  • Length: 18.2cm
Edges are frayed and irregularly cut
Content description
It is not known who the figures are in this photographic negative, though it is possible that it was made on the Devon or Cornwall coast where Turner is known to have made seascapes. The strong composition of the three centrally placed figures wearing smocks, with the background of boats, shows Turner’s growing ability to make a considered and bold image that use details and an understanding of the environment to give context – one of the hallmarks of his later works.
Gallery Label
  • In 1849 Turner took out a licence to practise paper negative, or calotype, photography from its inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot. Prints were made by waxing a negative, such as this, to make it translucent, placing it in contact with a second sheet of sensitised paper and leaving it in the sun. (10/2012)
  • Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2012-2013, label texts : Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815 – 94) Three Fishermen About 1850 In 1849 Turner took out a licence to practise paper negative, or calotype, photography from its inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot. Prints were made by waxing a negative, such as this, to make it translucent, placing it in contact with a second sheet of sensitised paper and leaving it in the sun. Calotype negative Museum no. E.4-2009 (11 03 2014)
Credit line
Purchased through the Cecil Beaton Royalties Fund
Summary
The Photographer: Benjamin Brecknell Turner



Benjamin Brecknell Turner (1815-1894) was one of the first, and remains one of the greatest, British photographers. He began practising photography in 1849 according to the ‘calotype’ technique patented in 1841 by the British inventor of photography W. H. Fox Talbot (1800-1877), taking out a license directly from him. Turner exhibited at the world’s first public photographic exhibition, held at London’s Society of Arts in 1852, where he was singled out by a reviewer from the Times as one of the best contributors. In 1855 he won a medal at the Paris Exhibition Universelle and continued exhibiting his photographs in photographic society exhibitions across Britain until the 1880s.



Turner is best known for his bold and large-scale (30 x 40 cm) albumen prints from calotype negatives showing rural English scenes in the picturesque tradition: ruined abbeys, castles, farmhouses and the rural landscape. However, he also made accomplished portraits of family, friends, and fellow photographers, and for these he often used the newer wet collodion on glass process.



Turner earned his living from running a successful tallow chandler’s business in the Haymarket, London, making candles and saddle soap. Rather than the professional photographers, it was the Gentleman-amateurs like Turner who contributed the most significantly to the rapid technical and aesthetic development of the medium that occurred in the 1850s. They furthered discussion through meetings and journals, exchanged experimental and technical findings and photographic prints and exhibited in a network of clubs and societies devoted to the art of the photograph. Turner played an active role in such bodies in his role as a founder member, and later vice-president of the Photographic Society of London.



This selection of photographs encompasses Turner’s earliest experiments in photography, made barely ten years after the announcement of the invention of the medium.
Bibliographic Reference
Barnes, Martin, 'Benjamin Brecknell Turner: Rural England through a Victorian Lens', London: V&A Publications, 2001, Figure 36, p. 62.
Collection
Accession Number
E.4-2009

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record createdJanuary 7, 2009
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