The Recent Past and James Ravilious: A Memoir are now available to shed more light on the life of one fo Britain’s most prolific photographers and his capture of rural North Devon in photographs

Ivor Brock rescuing a lamb in a blizzard, Millhams, Dolton, February 1978. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsIvor Brock rescuing a lamb in a blizzard, Millhams, Dolton, February 1978. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

A new book celebrating the work of photographer James Ravilious has opened a window into a rural North Devon that is all but vanished forever.

During his lifetime James (1939-99) took almost 80,000 pictures for the Beaford Centre chronicling daily life in the 1970s and 80s that clung to the rural tradition far longer than other parts of Britain.

The Recent Past is now on sale and offers a glimpse into those not-so-distant days and the wonderful characters and snapshots of life that fell before his lens.

Released at the same time is James Ravilious: A Memoir by his wife Robin Ravilious.

Photographer James Ravilious was warm with a zany sense of humour. Picture: Robin RaviliousPhotographer James Ravilious was warm with a zany sense of humour. Picture: Robin Ravilious

Robin was closely involved in James' work from the start, often travelling with him, and working on his books and exhibitions. She shared his love of country life and understood what inspired him. She has drawn a picture of an engaging, eccentric and gifted man whose warmth and enthusiasm made him friends wherever he went.

The Gazette caught up with Robin, 73, at the Chulmleigh she shared with James to find out more about the books and the man behind them.

She said: “The books are primarily a tribute to him but also a tribute to North Devon and a record of a way of life at a particular time.

“If people see the picture book they want to know more about James and hopefully if they see the biography they want to know more about his work, so they go together.”

Amos Oke, retired farmer, at Deckport, near Hatherleigh, in 1977. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsAmos Oke, retired farmer, at Deckport, near Hatherleigh, in 1977. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

James trained as an artist but found it difficult in the shadow of his famous father Eric Ravilious and photography became his passion.

Robin said when he began he started out small after being invited to 'take a few photos' but the work snowballed into what is now the Beaford Archive with thousands of pictures.

His artistic training gave him an eye for a picture and composition, but he had no formal training and trained on the job.

Robin was born and bred in Devon, but moved back to the area with James in 1972 and they had two children, Ben and Ella.

Instow Sands, 1975. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsInstow Sands, 1975. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

Remembering James, she said: “He was quite eccentric and he had a zany sense of humour – he was very warm and friendly and he got on with strangers at once.”

Both books are now available on Amazon and at all good bookshops.

Hunt followers watching the High Bickington beagles hunting hares, Westacott, Riddlecombe, 1975. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsHunt followers watching the High Bickington beagles hunting hares, Westacott, Riddlecombe, 1975. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

Archie Parkhouse and his Cow, Millhams, Dolton, 1980. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsArchie Parkhouse and his Cow, Millhams, Dolton, 1980. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

The River Torridge below Woolleigh Barton, Beaford, June 1983. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsThe River Torridge below Woolleigh Barton, Beaford, June 1983. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

Women on Parade by the War Memorial Chulmleigh, Remembrance Sunday, 1981. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsWomen on Parade by the War Memorial Chulmleigh, Remembrance Sunday, 1981. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

Homeland bridge on the River Taw near Eggesford, 1987. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsHomeland bridge on the River Taw near Eggesford, 1987. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts

Two farmers Cyril Webber and Fred Folland, at a Harvest Supper in the Village Hall, Dolton, 1975. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford ArtsTwo farmers Cyril Webber and Fred Folland, at a Harvest Supper in the Village Hall, Dolton, 1975. Photograph by James Ravilious � Beaford Arts