John Thomas (photographer)
"My mother (sitting) Shan y Lliwdy and Bontfaen maid", 1867
Cellan near Lampeter
John Thomas (1838 – 1905) was born in West Wales and worked as a photographer, specialising in landscape images of Wales and portraits of notable Welsh people, particularly church and chapel ministers.
When he was a teenager the family moved to Liverpool where he worked for ten years in a draper's shop starting in 1853. He was then obliged to change his way of life due to poor health. Before 1870 he got a job travelling, selling writing materials and selling photographs which enabled him to work in the country. Thomas realised that he was selling the very fashionable pictures called carte-de-visite that were of well known people, but few were from Wales. In 1863 he started to take carte-de-visite pictures of the Welsh ministers and he prepared to sell their photographs.
In 1867 he took this idea and established The Cambrian Gallery which was a business at 47 Everton Road in Liverpool. He ran a conventional studio photography business but he also took thousands of photographs on long journeys through Wales at a time when a photo took time to both prepare and develop. Thomas captured not only the people of Wales, but the landscapes as well. Many of his pictures were bought for the Welsh language magazine Cymru which was run by educationalist and historian Owen Morgan Edwards. Over 3,000 of his negatives were eventually bought by O. M. Edwards when he retired from photography. Edwards commented "that no-one has such a complete collection of views of Welsh historic sites".
Thomas died in October 1905.
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