Posted - 20-11-2012

News and Events

‘Out of the Shadows’ – The life and work of Ifor and Joy Thomas

Come to The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth this Friday and Saturday (23 and 24 November 2012) to celebrate the enormous contribution of the Welshman from Cross Hands, Ifor Thomas and his wife, Joy to British photography.

Through their courses at the Guildford School of Photography during mid-twentieth century, Ifor and Joy Thomas revolutionised the way photography was taught in Britain and laid the foundations for more than a generation of successful and influential photographers and film directors.

Lens is the annual documentary photography festival held at the National Library of Wales. It’s a celebration and recognition of the Library’s collections of over 800,000 documentary photographs.

‘When I volunteered to research the lives and work of Ifor and Joy Thomas in their pioneering School of Photography I had no idea what I had promised the National Library,’ said Rita Tait, Convener and Speaker at Lens 2012.

Rita Tait is a researcher and writer. She initiated the Arthur Machen Literary Society which ran for 12 years restoring the reputation of this Anglo Welsh writer. Rita then devoted her time and talent to Ifor and Joy Thomas’s collections. For almost three years she has converted what was a disparate jumble of old photographs, drawings and writing into the material which makes this event possible.

Rita’s husband Jack is a former student of Ifor and Joy Thomas at Guilford School of Photography, 1955 – 1958 and he set up The School of Photography at Derby College of Art and Manchester Polytechnic. In 1982 he was given all of Joy and Ifor Thomas’s ephemera and memorabilia which have been kindly gifted to the National Library of Wales.

This year’s Lens festival will include a host of influential speakers. As well as Rita and Jack Tait, they include; Professor Suga of Tsuda College Japan, who has published and lectured extensively on aspects of British Design in her role as Secretary of the Design History Workshop, Japan; William Troughton who is the National Library of Wales Curator for the National Collection of Welsh Photographs and has written and Published books on the history of photography and social history.

Former students of Ifor Thomas will also be speaking during Lens 2012 Festival. They include Tessa Traeger who is one of the outstanding still-life photographers of her generation; Julia Hedgecoe whose work has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London and Adam Woolfitt who writes on digital photography for the British Journal of Photography, Image Magazine and Photo District News in New York. Adam has also contributed to the National Geographic and other leading magazines for 30 years.

‘The Lens weekend is always a pleasurable and interesting get-together for all those interested in photography. We attract professional and amateur photographers as well as people interested in social history. Past speakers at the annual Lens festival have included the world-famous Phillip Jones-Griffiths and David Hurn.’ said William Troughton, National Library of Wales Curator for the National Collection of Welsh Photographs.

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6 responses

I am a former student of Henry Lewes (at Walthamstow in the 1950s) and wondered if you have any knowlege of him. He would now be at least in his eighties.

David Drury

Commented November 25, 2012 / 01:21:57

    Great to hear from you. Were you at Walthamstow at the same time as Ken Russell? Henry was alive ( ?last year) using a computer well in his 90s I think. He supplied me with a large number of papers that he had accumulated in the late 70s when attempting to get a film company interested in Ifor & Joy Thomas of Guildford & their work. I quoted at LENS 2012 from the interviews with Ifor’s now dead sisters and people like John Hedgecoe also no longer with us. We can dig out Henry’s contact details but please give us until next week & email or phone 01497 821132. ( The Winter Hay-on-Wye Festival just starting here and we are about to enjoy a little Rita & Jack time after finishing the LENS Festival.) Best, Rita

    rita tait

    Commented November 30, 2012 / 11:46:49

David Drury Further … my email address is

rita tait

Commented November 30, 2012 / 11:48:01

Dear Rita Tait,
Thank you for responding, and for wondering if I had joined the British Photographic History website. I was at the South West Essex Technicl College and School of Art from September 1953 to July 1955. I overlapped to some degree with Ken Russell, he was frequently in college using the darkroom. He may have been in previous year’s intake (very few students in each year, perhaps a dozen) but he may have completed his two years in 1953. Never the less we, the rest of us saw him frequently and he joined in many course activities. The lead lecturer at SW Essex when I startedthe course was Tony Basil – a member of the London Salon – with Henry Lewes the other lecturer. Tony Basil left at the end of the academic year 1954 and Henry ‘took-over’ while Julian Sheppard joined the staff. I still have a couple of group photographs of us students, one with Henry direcgting operations while puffing away on his pipe. I wondered, if he is still with us, if he might like copies as a reminder of those quite far away days. I’d be grateful for your thoughts.

David Drury

David Drury

Commented December 1, 2012 / 17:51:48

    Just picked up this post. ( trying to get Xmas all set up after giving a lot of time/attn. to LENS) Jack was chatting to Jane Bown a few days ago & she said that Henry has died – I assume recently as I think the news might have reached me. So sorry. he was a great guy & helped us a lot with LENS. Your memories of Walthamstow are most interesting & as soon as Jack comes back from Hay I shall show him. We hope eventually to use the 3 years of research in other ways ( ?book/exhibition/DVD) but at the momment I just need to get my life back for a little while.
    Julian Sheppard ended up in Cardiff didn’t he? His name was familiar to me before ever I met Jack & heard about Guildford. My ex husband taught at the film School in Newport & all our friends then were in BBC or ITV.

    rita tait

    Commented December 19, 2012 / 10:33:36

This may be something of a duplicate – there were problems in ending a reply a few moment ago. If so, apologies.
Thank you Rita for your reply, and my apologies for being so late in replying. I am so sorry to hear that Henry Lewes has passed on. Henry (never Mr Lewes) was a thoroughly nice man who encourage us Walthamstow students to regard photography as a medium of slf expression. I had hoped to send him a couple of pictures of us 1953-55 students being silly, which I think he might have found entertaining. One of them included Henry with his pipe.
On the other matter, if you think I might be able to contribute something useful to your researches, please ask.
Best wishes,
David Drury

David Drury

Commented February 17, 2013 / 02:54:53


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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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