“Victor Wilkins: A Shift of Focus,” Ensign, Dec. 1990, 64–65
In the 1960s, Victor Wilkins produced some of London’s most respected and well-known black-and-white photography. But his conversion to the Church twenty-two years ago brought a new focus to the lens and the life of this former fashion and advertising photographer.
“As a child, I had a deep conviction that life held some great inheritance for me,” he remarks. “This faith in the future was imagined as a legacy from some remote and unknown relative.” This search for that “inheritance” took him through some quite varied experiences.
“Some of the lovely Muslim parables related by the Sufi philosophers made me think profoundly about my existence and the meaning behind it,” Victor explains. “I began falling in love with the majesty and beauty of nature, trying to capture its emotion and magnificence on film. The more I meditated, the more I wanted to know what was behind this beautiful world.” He turned to meditation, hoping for some kind of spiritual witness. “At one stage I even felt my new views on life might mean renouncing the fashion world and all it stood for, then journeying to India to join mystics and Tibetan Monks.
“I was gradually rebelling against the often unhealthy atmosphere surrounding my career—the drug scene and low moral standards—and at the same time I was drawing toward purer things in life.”
Then came a beautiful spiritual experience. On a warm June day in 1967, he walked across Hyde Park toward the Albert Memorial, gazing at the statues of great composers, poets, and philosophers such as Beethoven, Bach, and Shakespeare.
“I felt an impression that God is the source of all goodness and true greatness. A feeling of awe came over me,” Victor recalls, “and I knew I had to search until I found him, even if it meant traveling to the Himalayas.”
As Victor walked down the street, his whole being tingled, and he knew that something special was about to happen.
“As I approached a streetboard outside a very ordinary building,” explains Victor, “I felt I was stopped in my tracks.” On the board, in picture form, was the story of Christ coming to the ancient Americas in Book of Mormon times. “As I studied the story, something leapt inside me,” he says. “The thought came to me, ‘Look and concentrate as you’ve never concentrated before. You have a mission within this church.’”
Victor had stopped in front of the Hyde Park chapel. A sister missionary invited Victor inside for discussion, and he immediately felt at home—as if what he learned was something he had always known.
Victor recognized the need to be rid of his worldly self and take up a new life, and he requested immediate baptism. This took the missionaries by surprise, but they persuaded him to listen to the discussions. When they asked, “Do you understand that the Lord requires 10 percent of your income as a tithe?” He replied, “Is that all? You can have everything!” and immediately tried to give them one of his expensive cameras. Victor was baptized in Hyde Park Chapel in London, several weeks after his first meeting with the missionaries in the summer of 1967.
Shortly after his conversion, Victor was contacted by a photographic agent on behalf of Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Paul’s wife, Linda, to print pictures for a book Linda was writing. The McCartneys also wanted Victor to plan a darkroom for Linda. When these projects were completed, they asked Victor to stay and work permanently for them, but he chose instead to move to the country to pursue a more self-sufficient life-style.
Victor and his wife, Sally, whom he married in July 1971, now have seven children—Seth, Esther, Gideon, Matthew, Bethany, Martha, and Hannah—and live in Boncath, a remote hamlet in West Wales, where they have successfully set up a business in their home.
In late 1985, after serving as Lichfield stake mission president, Victor was called to be bishop of his ward. He is now a Melchizedek Priesthood leader in the Llandysul Branch, Merthyr Tydfil stake.
His testimony and his love of photography have combined to focus his talents and energies on visually illustrating parables, particularly that in Alma 32. Victor has a great love for the Book of Mormon. “Whenever I read the Book of Mormon, I feel as if I’m there, living with those people, experiencing their trials and joys,” he says.
Victor and Sally are constantly grateful for their Church membership. They realize how vital it is to receive weekly repetition and reinforcement of gospel principles at Church meetings. Victor comments, “We couldn’t manage to bring up seven children in this materialistic society without the constant backup provided by the Church.”
The Wilkinses continue to find many new friendships among the Welsh people. Victor feels strongly about missionary work and shares gospel truths among his many friends.