Archive reveals hidden delights

18 months ago, Herefordshire Life Through a Lens was launched with a celebration of Derek Evan’s life and work. Amongst those gathered, were an illustrious group of photographers, or ‘togs’ as they are known in the business. Like all of us involved with the project, they were waiting to see what Derek’s archive was going to reveal.

Waiting with perhaps more anticipation than most, was the ex-Hereford Times photographer, and friend of Derek’s, Ray Lloyd, and his wife Elaine. Never a wedding photographer, Derek did the Lloyds an unusual favour in the 1960s and took their wedding pics. However, the photos may have made it out of the dark room, but they have never made the light of day, for the Lloyds have yet to see them. ‘Perhaps,’ they asked, ‘if you ever come across them, please let us know.’

Promise made, we continued with the major task of this project: digitising Derek’s vast collection of work. Volunteers are carefully working their way through his lifetime’s archive, numbering over 200,000 images. Among these are the possibly less interesting work-a-day photos of a jobbing news photographer: long service gold watch presentations, numerous footballer head shots, Bulmer’s, and retirements. On top of these are the more interesting, and hitherto unseen, examples of hop picking and the Mayfair, both subjects conjuring up, in a simple, black and white snapshot, an altogether different time.

There are stills hundreds of other negatives in the collection that are waiting for the ‘lid’ to be lifted and finally identified. Waiting patiently from the side-lines, quietly and uncomplainingly, are the Lloyds, hoping beyond hope, that their photos might emerge. Their ‘plight’ came to mind recently at a Cultural Strategy meeting at HARC, where we, from the Herefordshire Life Through a Lens team, made a presentation about the project. ‘It’s early days,’ we told the audience, ‘and we are eager to see what the collection will reveal,’ and we told them about the Lloyds long, long wait.

Afterwards, head archivist Rhys Griffiths came towards us brandishing a sheaf of negatives. ‘We have found them! Only this week, and you reminded me when you were talking about the Lloyds.’

It was a joy to make that long-awaited phone call to Ray and Elaine, who could hardly believe the news. Over fifty years later, they will finally be able to pick up their wedding photos. We all agree, it will have been worth the wait. But we wonder what else might emerge from the archive. We will keep you posted.

Here’s a tiny taste of others we have digitised from the collection