Photographers

Ebenezer Morgan  (1820-1906)

Ebenezer Morgan was baptized in Lledrod, Ceredigion, on 9 July, 1820. He was apprenticed in the joinery trade at Tregaron and subsequently worked as a joiner in Manchester and Birmingham. On his return to Aberystwyth he entered into partnership with Benjamin Hughes, who owned an ironmongers in the town. 

Soon after, Morgan started a photography business with John Owen, the first photographer to come to Aberystwyth, and by ca.1860 Morgan had established 2 studios of his own on Pier Street. The 1880s was a boom period for photography in Aberystwyth and by 1880 Morgan owned one of  the six photographic businesses in the town. He became one of the most well-established of the earliest photographers there, maintaining the business for over forty years up to his retirement in 1899.

John Thomas (1838-1905)

John Thomas was a labourer's son from Cellan, Ceredigion. In 1853 he moved to Liverpool to work in a draper's shop. Over a period of ten years the work had a detrimental effect on his health and he was forced to find other employment.

During the early 1860s, he worked for a firm dealing in writing materials and photographs of famous people. The publishing and selling of small photographs of celebrities (carte-de-visite photographs) at the time was a very lucrative business. He soon realised that only a few of the photographs he was selling were of Welsh celebrities, and so he undertook to change things himself.

He learnt the rudiments of photography and in 1863 he began taking photographs of the famous by inviting a number of well-known preachers to sit for their portraits. The enterprise was a success and by 1867 he was confident enough to establish his own photographic business in Liverpool ‘The Cambrian Gallery.’

He worked as a photographer for about forty years, and during that time he travelled widely across Wales taking photographs of landscapes as well as people.

Hugh Humphreys (1817-1896)

Hugh Humphreys was born in Caernarfon in 1817. He was apprenticed at the age of 12 to the Caernarfon printer, Peter Evans. He set up his own printing business in the town in 1837. The business soon developed into a much larger enterprise which also included bookselling, photography and oil painting among its activities. The business thrived for nearly sixty years. One of the most important books published by him was A Tour in Wales (pub. 1778-1783) written by the naturalist, antiquary and traveller, Thomas Pennant (1726-1798).

According to trade directories, Humphreys was operating as a portrait and landscape photographer in the 1880s and 1890s under the title of ‘Humphreys Photographic Studio & Fine Art Gallery’ at Paternoster Buildings, Castle Square, Caernarfon. Many of the photographs produced by him were in the form of card photographs, which were extremely popular during this time. He took a prominent part in the life of the town, becoming Mayor in 1876.

John Wickens (1865-1936)

John Wickens was a well-known Bangor photographer with studios in The Crescent and College Road, Upper Bangor and High Street, Bangor. According to trade directories, he first operated as a photographer in the town in 1889 and remained in business there for the remainder of his life.

By 1900, he had two premises at Retina Studio, Upper Bangor, and Studio Royal, 43 High Street. He was a prolific portrait photographer, and won awards for his images, including a Gold medal at the Swansea Eisteddfod in 1891.

Henry Alfred Chapman (1844-1915)

Henry Alfred Chapman was born in Coningsby, Lincolnshire, in 1844 and educated at Lincoln Grammar School. The Chapman family settled in Swansea in 1860. His father, Samuel Palmer Chapman, opened a photographic studioin York Street and later in High Street. Henry himself later moved to No. 235 High Street to set up his own shop, studio and family home. Both Henry and his father were among the first commercial photographers in Swansea.

In his early years, basic technical changes were regularly transforming photography and he always remained an experimenter. He produced the extremely popular card-backed portraits named ‘cartes-de-visite.’ They were sold  at 2/- each for over 13 years.

In 1870 he was appointed Government photographer for Glamorgan. He won many prizes and awards for his photography, including six first prizes in the National Eisteddfod in Merthyr Tydfil in 1901. He was very industrious during his lengthy career. By 1908, he had an impressive stock of 350,000 glass negatives.

His love of drawing and painting was also evident throughout his life. He was an enthusiastic portrait painter and offered this service alongside his photographic work. He worked mainly in oils and painted many notable Welshmen from the area such as Sir John Dillwyn Llewelyn and William Thomas of Lan. In the 1870s he became the principal artist for the local monthly The Swansea boy.

He was elected to the Council in 1881 and served as councillor and Poor Law Guardian  for twenty years. In 1892 he was elected Mayor of Swansea

Bibliography

  • Darlington, Elizabeth A., 1988. ‘High Street Photographers in Aberystwyth 1857 - c1900.’ National Library of Wales journal. Volume XXV/4 (Winter)
  • Gabb, Gerald, 1999. Jubilee Swansea (Volume II) : the town and its people in the 1890s. Swansea : Gerald Gabb
  • National Library of Wales, ‘John Thomas (1838-1905): his life and work'