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The history of photographers in Swansea

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photography in Swansea through the ages.

The history of photographers in Swansea takes us back to 1839 and to a John Dilwyn Llewelyn who lived in Penllaeger. It was in Penlaeger that most of his early Swansea photography was taken In the 1850’s. The National museum of Wales holds around 850 prints and a few hundred negatives. In 1833 John married into the family of Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam and Penrice of which william Henry fox talbot was the original pioneer of photography and invented the negative press calling them photogenic drawings. Back then photographers mainly existed in Seaside resorts and large towns.


With Swansea being both it was no surprise that photographers in Swansea emerged with studios, often painting over black and white images to create colour and offering picture framing, ornaments, stationary and fancy goods. In 1844 James Dowdall of Swansea classified him as photographic painter and quite often other photographers would use photographs as a base to create portraiture oil paintings.


Photographers back then would advertise in directories which are our equivalent of websites and Instagram! For family portrait photographers would offer costume and dress too with younger family members often wearing more flamboyant costume. In 1875 Isaac stone offered “ Welsh costume for hire” Tenby being just like Swansea; a seaside town for tourists and day trippers looking to get a photograph taken professionally!

Although portrait photography has changed greatly over the years, photographers in Swansea tend to be more wedding photographers rather than portrait photographers. Wedding photography in Swansea is a booming industry with several luxury wedding venues in Swansea and around the Gower.


Where traditional Victorian  portrait photographers offered beach shoots, today wedding photographers in Swansea offer wedding shoots on beaches and mix Landscape photography and sunsets with portraits of the married couple. Worms head, Oxwich and three cliffs bay are popular places for such wedding day shoots.

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A history of photographers in Swansea