Remembering John Dillwyn Llewelyn: Early Swansea Photography

January 12, 2015 /Photography News/ In the middle of the 19th century a group of people in Swansea, Wales, became captivated by a new invention - photography. Between 1841 and 1856, John Dillwyn Llewelyn (1810-1882) of Penlle’r-gaer, his family, and many of their acquaintances experimented with, and even developed, exciting new photographic processes. They compiled the world's first family albums with photographs of their friends and relations that reveal the warmth and delight of life within the walls of the great landed estates of Victorian Wales.

John Dillwyn Llewelyn, was born 205 years ago today, on January 12, 1810.

The National Library of Wales has five albums of photographs from the Dillwyn Llewelyn family, as well as a number of single images. The albums combine informal family portraits with landscapes, still life studies and architectural studies. These albums contain prints prepared from calotypes and wet collodion negatives.

The relaxed nature of those family members and friends depicted in these early photographs is in stark contrast to the formal studio portraits of the time. It is their ease in front of the camera that betrays the familiarity with which the Dillwyn Llewelyn family and acquaintances felt for photography. It was not for another fifty years that the world at large would share this ease in front of the camera.

More images and further information can be found on the National Library of Wales' website.

Elinor Amy Dillwyn Llewelyn. Other title : 'Elinor 1853'. Photographer: John Dillwyn Llewelyn. Date: 1853. Medium: Print taken from a collodion negative.

The Llewelyn Children. Photographer: John Dillwyn Llewelyn. Note: Other titles: ‘Palmistry’ also ‘The Brewis Kettle’ and ‘Gipsies’. Figures l to r: John Talbot (Johnny) Dillwyn Llewelyn, Willy (in tent), Emma Charlotte DL seated on basket, Caroline Traherne (standing). Date: Probably September 6th, 1856. Medium: Print possibly taken from an oxymel negative.

Lion Cubs. Photographer: John Dillwyn Llewelyn. Other title : ‘Lion Cubs three weeks old at Clifton Zoological Gardens’. Date: 16 March 1854. Medium: Print taken from a collodion negative.

Our schoolchildren. Photographer: John Dillwyn Llewelyn. Note: Posed by Mr Hammerton, art master. Date: July 22 1856. Medium: Print taken from a collodion negative.

Emma Llewelyn, wife of J. D. Llewelyn. Photographer: John Dillwyn Llewelyn. Note: Emma Dillwyn Llewelyn making a photographic print. Date: 1853. Medium: Print taken from a collodion negative.

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