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John Dillwyn Llewelyn

John Dillwyn was born to Lewis Weston and Mary Adams Dillwyn in Swansea, Wales on January 12, 1810. His mother was the illegitimate daughter of wealthy Colonel John Llewelyn and his father was a botanist, prosperous businessman, and public official who served at various times as a magistrate, Member of Parliament, and Mayor of Swansea. Upon the death of his maternal grandfather, young John received a portion of his estate on the condition he assume his surname. After receiving a private education, Mr. Llewelyn graduated from Oxford's Oriel College in 1827, and through his father's connections met several important scientists of the time, including Sir Charles Wheatstone and early photographer John Wheeley Gough Gutch. In 1833, his marriage to Emma Thomasina Talbot would enable him to establish another important photographic contact as she was the first cousin of calotype pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot. The couple settled in Penllergare and would later have seven children, one of whom would die in infancy.

Like his father, Mr. Llewelyn became a local magistrate and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Linnean Society (a botanical organization). However, his passion for photography led to his innovative experimentation with the new daguerreotype technique. His earliest daguerreotype is dated 1840, a mere one year after the process was invented. According to William Henry Fox Talbot, Mr. Llewelyn was the world's first botanical photographer. In addition, he assisted Mr. Wheatstone on the first known experiments in submarine telegraphy. He kept up with the latest photographic advancements through correspondence and friendships with other pioneers like Philip Delamotte and daguerreotype visionary Antoine Claudet.

In 1853, Mr. Llewelyn became a founding member of the Photographic Society of London. That same year he made an impressive instantaneous exposure, Waves Breaking in Caswell Bay, estimated at 125th of a second. His first exhibition was held at the Photographic Society of London in 1854, and attracted the attention of photography aficionado Queen Victoria. He exhibited four photographs at the Parisian Exposition Universelle, which included Clouds over St. Catherines, Tenby, believed to be the first photograph that employed the collodion process. Time was always a problem with the collodion method, and so Mr. Llewelyn developed an oxymel process that actually allowed the collodion to retain its wet consistency for several weeks. He also used dry collodion plates and glycerine, but was dissatisfied with their quality. Ever the experimenter, Mr. Llewelyn also dabbled in a photoglyphic drawing technique, but was again unimpressed by the results.


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