The National Collection of Welsh Photographs does not just include images of Wales. It also includes photographs relating to Wales, such as those of the Welsh settlements in Patagonia, Argentina. Many of these photographs capture the pioneering spirit of the settlers and the harsh conditions they endured in the early years.
It is now over 140 years since the first Welsh settlers landed in Patagonia. Life in the early years was harsh. Without the help of local indigenous people they would not have survived. By the 1880s the colony was well established and the subject of much curiosity back in Wales. Numerous photographers have recorded life in this remote part of South America. In all there are now 24 albums that contain photographs of Welsh settlers and their descendants in The National Library of Wales.
Some of the most interesting views of Patagonia were taken by Edward Jones Williams (c.1858-1932), who worked as a civil engineer in the region. He first visited Patagonia in 1881 and worked on irrigation canals in the Camwy valley. Later he was responsible for mapping out the route of the Central Railway of Chubut. This line ran from Puerto Madryn to the settlements inland. He remained operating manager of the railway until 1907.
Revd D D Walters (1874-1968) spent 16 years in Patagonia. His collection of photographs focuses on aspects of religious life, particularly the Band of Hope, which he established. He was also remembered for purchasing a horse called Krujer to help him get around. Krujer’s previous owner had trained him to stop outside each tavern he passed. Not a desirable trait in a horse used by a minister preaching temperance!
The centenary of the establishment of the colony in 1965 was widely celebrated and collections of photographs by T Elwyn Griffiths and Dwynwen Belsey record the events.
Three years later the artist Sir Kyffin Williams was awarded a fellowship from the Winston Churchill Trust to visit Patagonia. He spent many months travelling through the region drawing and photographing the people and places he saw. In all, he took nearly 700 colour transparencies. Many of these were to be used as the foundation for later sketches and paintings. A large selection of these Patagonian views is also in the National Collection of Welsh Photographs.
In more recent years contemporary photographers Haydn Denman and Carlos Goldgrub have both visited Patagonia and photographed extensively. Their respective works are also in the collection.