A hundred years ago every town had at least one high street photographer. D C Harries was one such photographer in Llandeilo. Later he opened studios in Ammanford and Llandovery. He started his business in about 1888 and died in 1940 aged 75.
South Wales had 125 such photographers in 1901. These photographers made their living from studio portraits, weddings and other family occasions.
D C Harris’ studio portraits with their painted backdrops and props, give an interesting insight into the work of a high street photographer at this time. It is not for these photographs that he is remembered however, but for those taken in and around Llandeilo. These photographs record everyday life in a small town and its rural surroundings prior to the Second World War.
Although confined to a small geographical area the quality of D C Harries’ work gives his images a greater significance. The pride of the owner posing behind the wheel of a new car, or the faces of the miners emerging after their shift, are images with universal appeal. Likewise the numerous photographs of cosy, whitewashed, thatched cottages hint at a way of life long gone.
As might be expected agriculture is a frequent topic in his photographs.
Of particular interest to him was the increasing mechanisation of agriculture and the machinery this brought into the area. It is difficult to imagine machinery that, to us, looks old and cumbersome being the height of technology when it was photographed.
Although a rural area, Llandeilo is less than 10 miles from the northern edge of the South Wales coalfield. His photographs therefore include views of coal mining in the Ammanford area and the limestone quarries at Llandybie - essential for the steel industry.
D C Harries’ photographs range over the whole social spectrum. One of his friends was the industrialist Isaac Haley, a keen amateur photographer. Haley settled in nearby Glanbran mansion. The collection includes many interior and exterior views of the mansion, which was dismantled in 1930.
Not all was calm and tranquillity in the area. There were occasions, such as the accident that befell the Llandeilo – Ammanford bus when life was decidedly more exciting, especially for the passengers.
The collection was bequeathed to The National Library of Wales in 1976 by Hugh Newton Harries, the last surviving son of D C Harries. From the vast collection, 2,500 negatives have been selected, printed out and bound into volumes containing 100 or so prints in each. These are available for consultation on the open shelves in the South Reading Room.