FOR nearly 40 years he has been behind the lens across Lowestoft, capturing couples in love and happy families and pets.

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And now the focus is being fixed firmly on Ray Vincent as he prepares to hang up his camera and close his photographic studio after 37 years in the town.

Mr Vincent will be closing Studio 161 in the High Street on New Year’s Eve as he is retiring.

The 66-year-old has been in the High Street since 1975 when he set up shop at number 161 before re-locating to 102 in the early 1990s.

His photographic studio is a treasure trove, detailing people’s lives in the Lowestoft area and beyond since 1975.

He has thousands of images of weddings and portraits – which he hopes old customers may want to snap up before he closes on December 31.

Mr Vincent, who does not use a digital camera and relies on his trusty Hasselblad, estimates that Studio 161 has covered 3,000 weddings and thousands of sittings.

And over the last 37 years Mr Vincent has certainly seen some strange events at weddings, from a groom fainting to fights at receptions.

He said: “You sometimes get the odd families who do not get on together and once they start drinking the vol-au-vents start flying around.

“There was an occasion when mid- way through the vows the groom fainted and it took him half an hour to become coherent again.”

Mr Vincent decided to set up a photographic studio after he tried his hand in the building trade.

The 1980s saw his business hit its heyday with up to 120 weddings being covered every year by himself and seven wedding photographers.

He said the secret of taking the perfect wedding and portrait photograph was not technical skill but having a “friendly personalty to put people at ease”.

Ironically for someone with a dab hand with a camera, Mr Vincent does not like taking photographs and does not even take snaps when he is on holiday.

However is he proud of the last 37 years he has spent recording the best days in people’s lives and taking portraits so families can keep them for prosperity.

He said: “Once I close Studio 161 I will never take another photograph again.

“But I feel very emotional and sad at closing my studio. It has been a pleasure and a real privilege to be involved in people’s weddings and taking portraits which have taken pride of place in many homes across Lowestoft and further afield.

“I want to thank all my customers. I will miss them all.”

Mr Vincent, who is married with children, has negatives of all the photographs taken by his company. Copies cost £10 for a portrait or £20 for a wedding photograph and are available from his studio or by calling 01052 560741.

The site of Studio 161 is set to become an art gallery.

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