Papier Passions

Paper people: Toby Lewis Thomas

The photographer and trainee-vicar clears his mind by putting pen to page.


Toby Lewis Thomas


Theresa & Toby Thomas

Toby Lewis Thomas is an old friend of ours at Papier. We’ve worked with him on video and photo shoots for nearly as long as we’ve been around. His natural charm and unique perspective on the world has quickly entranced many of the people we’ve featured on The Fold.

As he goes through a transformative period of his life, becoming a parent and training for the priesthood in the Church of England, we felt like this was the moment he stepped in front of the camera and told us his story.

So with some photographic help from his wife Theresa (and baby son Abel) we caught up at their east London home to chat about the times Toby's turned over new leaves in his life, and how putting pen to paper helps with his ADHD.


On pen & paper

I find it easier not to stay in the lines. I like to have notebooks with blank pages so I can draw and make a massive mess.

I have ADHD, so for me it's so helpful to have different kinds of stationery. It works as an outward prompt to stay on track. I've got a weekly overview planner that sits on my desk which reminds me of my to-dos and what I'm doing each day.

I let a lot of my ideas slip away. With ADHD, I think a lot and struggle to hold on to all my thoughts. So just having a notebook where I can get those ideas down and that I can come back to later is really helpful.

Journaling can be very centring. When it comes to reflecting on the day, I use a journal to write and think intentionally. I find it really helps me. Just to take that moment seriously and be very present in myself, I think that's what putting pen to paper can do.

On turning over new leaves

I struggled at school until I found photography. I had this amazing teacher in college, called Pauline, who really helped me understand how I could express myself through photography. As someone who probably didn't know how to express his feelings very well this was so profound. It gave me a way to understand and express myself. And what was beautiful about this was people started to put value in the things that I was making. It led into a career that I'm so thankful I've been able to spend the last 13 years doing.

The most transformative moment for me during lockdown was the birth of my son. I grew up without a dad. So becoming a father was quite a shock to me at the start. But seeing that I have the capabilities to do it alongside my loving wife has been such a healing process for me. It has really helped me move on in my life and grow up in a new way, and I'm really thankful for that.

A lot of priorities have shifted for me as I've transitioned my career. I’m training for priesthood whilst continuing to pursue photography. One of the sensitivities about what I do in the Church is you sit in this interesting space of being around a lot of joy, as well as a lot of pain, and I’m learning more and more about how moments can be so important and sacred. So I think, more time with my family is definitely at the top of my list, but also prioritising other people's birthdays and weddings and special events. Making sure that celebrating with people is a priority.

The stationery Q&A

Your most treasured piece of stationery?
I've got a leather Papier notebook with my initials on it and it feels like I have to write really special things in there.

Complete this sentence: ‘Stationery is…’
...lots of fun.

Old journals and notebooks: Keep or recycle?

Notebook covers: always get the same or mix it up?
Always get the same.

What item of stationery could you not live without?
A plain notebook and a good pen.

Are you a doodler or a neat notetaker?
A messy notetaker and a massive doodler.

Lined, plain or dotted notebooks?
Definitely plain notebooks.

Pen or pencil?
Definitely pens. I hate the sound of pencils.

Plan in your diary or reflect in your journal?
I would say reflect in my journal.

List ticking or creative thinking?
A little bit of both. Different stationery for each one.

Do you send note cards and letters?
I've just ordered my first set, and I'm really excited to send them out.

If you're a paper person like Toby, personalise your very own piece of Papier