Allen, Charles Smith

Nationality: British
Place of Activity: United Kingdom

Charles Smith Allen was a pioneer photographer in Wales, renowned as the finest of Tenby’s early camera artists. Born in Rugeley, Staffordshire, in 1831, a few surviving paper negatives show that he was recording Tenby in silver towards the end of the 1840s. He set up business in Tenby, buying the old Assembly Rooms and building his ‘Excelsior Studios’ on to it. This had a fully equipped darkroom as well as a complex system of shutters and blinds which controlled the level of daylight that entered the studio. He often took photographs on location, having built himself a portable, horse-drawn darkroom. He also had a shop and studio, ‘The Mortimer Studio’, in Tredegar House, High Street, dealing in stationery, as well as a studio in Priory Street, Cardigan. Allen photographed all over Wales producing many images of the natural landscape. His photographs are strongly influenced by the tradition of British landscape painting, focusing on subtle play of light and dramatic pictorial effects. He was particularly successful at photographing the caves near Tenby, which served as a great source for Allen’s romantic imagination. C. S. Allen died in Tenby in 1897. [Based on description supplied by Tenby Museum and Art Gallery]