Monday, 28 August 2017

Guess Who?- It's that man again......

The name I refer to today has gone from the London  LEICA scene in recent years but from the 1930's until recently could be relied upon for specialist Leica advice and sales.  At one time there were associated stores in provincial cities and in fact I bought my first 35mm camera in one of these in 1960, in fact from the Bristol branch. The name is of course R.G.Lewis, famous for the traditional address of  202 High Holborn, London.

It was only recently that I learnt that the proprietor was the son of the named 'R.G.Lewis' and is more correctly named as Norman Lewis. Born in 1908 Norman enjoyed a long and diverse life  and passed away in 2003, aged 94.

My reading of  pre-war magazines concerning amateur photography often show up articles and features written by R.G. Lewis chiefly concerning travel in, for that time, exotic places such as the Balkans and the Middle East. He was an A.R.P.S. under the name of his father. While he produced many excellent photographs with the Leica in a distinctive style the true nature of  his work comes to light in a massive Biography minutely researched and written by Julian Evans. In fact,  a photo essay of Arabian buildings in the M.C.M ,  August 1938,  with technical details,  is revealed as an intelligence gathering expedition of a year or two prior to that date, on behalf of this country. One presumes the seven kilometer drive up the bed of a river in the Balkans which wrote off a Ford V8 was also at the public expense!

Lewis' long life enabled him to have raced Bugatti cars at Brooklands and yet travelled in South America with Lord Snowdon. His exotic lifestyle having been, in part, financed by the Leica Shops and associated photographic business ventures, which enabled  him to act as a part time British Intelligence agent- a spy. His War was spent in the Intelligence Corps and his post war writing in novels and travel were copious. Nothing of the extra curricular activities appears in the Wikipedia entry but I recommend the 792 pages of 'Semi Invisible Man' by Julian Evans ( Pub, Jonathan Cape 2008) for much, much, fuller detail.

The reason I have set the scene for the Blog today is the complete anonymity  he enjoyed for years and appeared to never seek recognition. However the pictures in the Biography are distinctive and he could hardly be confused with anyone else as a very smart dresser with distinctive facial hair, Leading on from this is a portrait which appears in the  M.C.M. of December 1937.credited to Leo.A.Leigh A.R.P.S.(later F.R.P.S). who was sadly killed in a motor accident early in the War.It is part of his essay on copying and forms an end-piece.It cannot be anyone but 'R G Lewis'

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