Excursions to Scotland and Wales, 1856-1857
In the late summer and early autumn of almost every year from 1852 to 1860, Fenton traveled throughout England, Scotland, and Wales to photograph the landscape and architecture. During his travels in Scotland in 1856, he experimented with the effects of light, atmosphere, and photographic space. Fenton frequently transformed what seemed like limitations of the camera and photographic materials into assets. Noting the camera's tendency to flatten space and obscure spatial relationships, he often based his compositions on shape and pattern.
In 1857, Fenton traveled to the heart of Wales—the valleys of the Conway, Lledr, and Llugwy. This area had been sparsely populated and little visited by English travelers until the late eighteenth century. Aided by new roads and attracted by rapturous descriptions in guidebooks, many artists visited the region in the 1840s and 1850s. Its rocky streams, wooded hollows, and mountainous expanses were considered both "sublime and beautiful" and inspired some of Fenton's finest landscape photographs.
Notably absent from Fenton's photographs of Wales are any of the region's new cast-iron and chain suspension bridges, engineering landmarks of the Industrial Revolution. Instead, he focused his camera on unassuming picturesque subjects, such as the old Pont-y-Pant Bridge (Bridge-of-the-Hollow), that seemed to embody the Welsh character and a simpler pastoral life.