Wilson Hegoda

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Wilson Hegoda
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Born(1915-01-08)January 8, 1915
Galle, Srilanka.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
NationalitySri Lankan
CitizenshipSri Lanka
  • Photographer
  • Poet
  • Teacher
  • Founder Photo Bureau of Srilanka Police
Notable work
Founder National Photographic Art Society of Srilanka 1950
Spouse(s)Nanda Jayawardene
  • Lal Hegoda
  • Palitha Hegoda

Wilson Hegoda (1915-1984) was an internationally acclaimed photographer who pioneered the free teaching of photography in Sri Lanka in the national language of Sinhala. He founded the National Photographic Society of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1950. He inaugurated the photo bureau of the police department of Sri Lanka. He was also a founder member of Aganuwara Tharuna Kavi Samajaya (Athakasa) (Young Poets Society in Colombo) established in 1935.

Early Life

Ranasinghe Arachchige Wilson Hegoda was born on 8 January 1915 in Batuwanthudawa in the district of Galle, Southern Sri Lanka. He was the eldest child of the four children of Mr. Ranasinghe Arachchige Hinni Appuhamy Hegoda and Agida Hamine Rajapakshe. He commenced his studies at Hapugala Rajyabhishek Vidyalaya in Galle. His siblings Piyadasa, Dharmadasa and Malini moved to the city of Colombo with him and their mother when his father passed away. Based in Modera, he continued his studies at Modera Ananda Vidyalaya.In a few months they moved to Kollupitiya. He started working as a clerk at Harrison & Crossfield in Colombo while studying Buddhism, poetry, and literature with monks in Polwatte Temple in Kollupitiya. Wilson studied English at the Methodist Church school in Galle Face and poetry and art at various institutes. He had the opportunity to associate with established poets, artists, and cultural activists in Colombo. He joined the newspaper edited by Mr. Piyadasa Sirisena as a young poet writing for the children's page. He married Rubasinghe Nandawathi Jayawardene, a daughter of Rubasinghe Jayawardene and Elisa Boteju, in 1945. She was also a renowned poet in Sri Lankan poetry circles and became the general secretary of the Women's Art Society in Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka Kantha Kala Sangamaya).


He co-founded the Young Poets' Association of Colombo (Aganuwara Tharuna Kavi Samajaya ATHAKASA) in 1935. He held the office of general secretary for 35 years after the inauguration. He organised a countrywide and memorable arts competition series popularly known as 'Kolila Hatana' sponsored by the Women’s Art Society of Sri Lanka.

Wilson Hegoda has co-edited many magazines in poetry with prominent poets like Mr. P.B. Alwis Perera and John Rajadasa. He also published two books made up of the collections of his poetry including ‘Kadupul Male Viththiya ' (the Story of the Kadupul Flower-Queen of the Night/Epiphyllum oxypetalum) which included photographs of the blooming of the said flower.


He turned to photography after winning a camera from a newspaper competition in 1936. However, he was unable to continue photography as his hobby for financial reasons. He gained his initial taste of photography at the Colombo Technical College where he took a brief course, and from the photography articles of Lionel Wendt which appeared in a newspaper. However, he was really a self-taught man who excelled in photography at a later stage.

Hegoda has won awards for his photography internationally and has been awarded many honorary titles by various organisations.

In 1976 The Evidence Photographic International Council (EPIC) of the USA, which had only nine foreign fellowship title holders at the time, awarded Wilson Hegoda its fellowship FEPIC. This was awarded only to photographers of the world who have been acclaimed for their photo artistry and superlative proficiency in crime photography.

In 1977 The Federation International Arts in Belgium awarded him the title of ESFIAP for his service to Sri Lankan photography.

He was the only photographer who has, for five years consecutively, won gold, silver and bronze medals, shields and 25 certificates for his crime and art photography at the World Police Photographers' Competition sponsored by the Japanese police department (1960-65). In one competition he won the first, second and third awards.

On his retirement he was offered the post of visiting lecturer at the faculty of Aesthetic Studies in the University of Kelaniya.

Police Photographer

In 1938, Hegoda joined the police department of Sri Lanka, later affiliated to the Criminal Investigations Department, where he established its photo bureau. Having been trained in London’s Scotland Yard in 1963, he was made the officer in charge of the bureau with a promotion to the rank of inspector on his return. After a splendid service to the police department as the head of the photo bureau he retired in 1973, having completed a service of 35 years.

He created and conducted training programmes for police photographers in all aspects of photography for almost three decades.

During his career at the police department,he photographed a number of famous crime scenes - the assassinationof the late Prime Minister Mr. S.W.R.D Bandaranayake, the White House Robbery, the Robbery of Four Lakhs and the Wilpaththu murder (Adelene Witharana) are a few of them.

National Photographic Art Society of Sri Lanka

In 1950 he embarked on the establishment of the National Photographic Art Society of Ceylon (later, Sri Lanka). His intention was to teach photography free to unprivileged youth and the Sinhala-speaking society who had no access to the subject in their mother tongue. The membership of his society grew, and he commenced teaching photography for free on Sundays at a school called Maha Bhodhi Vidyalaya near Colombo Town Hall. To teach photography in Sinhala, Hegoda and his close associate Prof G.L.R. de Silva created numerous new words related to photography and optics which have been widely used in the Sinhalese vocabulary. The classes attracted students from everywhere in Sri Lanka. The four-year course ended with a diploma in photography. The photographic society sponsored exhibitions every year with the participation of local photographers and those from around the world. Many students who followed the course later established themselves as press photographers, studio owners and photographers for many government institutions. The National Photographic Art Society of Sri Lanka is still active and continuing Hegoda's vision, making the livelihood for many photographers. It is estimated that more than 15,000 students have completed their photographic Diplomas and related courses offered by the NPASC to- date. This course has produced many well-established photographers recognised in Sri Lanka and overseas. Some were recognised with honours. ie: ANPAS and FNPAS.

(Associate and the Fellow of the National Photographic Art Society of Sri Lanka)

Other Societies founded by Wilson Hegoda

Students' Photographic Societies (Camera Lama Samajaya) - 1967
35 MM. Camera Club - 1972
Women's Photographic Society - 1973
Federation of Student's Photographic Societies - 1976
Camera Circle - 1980
Art Society of Ceylon (The Art Gallery) Colombo 7

When he became the General Secretary of the Art Society of Ceylon in 1965 (based in Kala Bhawana, Colombo 7) he initiated the 'Kala Pola’, an arts and craft bazaar which is an ensemble of hundreds of items of the arts and crafts of Sri Lanka, traditional and modern, directed to the Art Gallery in Colombo 7 from various parts of the country. The Art Gallery was taken over by the government on a proposal tabled by Hegoda.


  1. Wilson Hegoda edited the first ever photography magazine in Sinhala language called 'Camera'. He managed to edit it for ten years as a monthly.
  2. Camarawa: An eight-page publication of photography in Sinhala
  3. Malaka Suwanda - Poetry
  4. Ambapali- Poetry/Photography

Exhibition of photographs and handwritings of poets and writers in Sri Lanka In 1950 he organised a unique exhibition of photographs of all the contemporary poets and writers in Sri Lanka, photographing them himself. It was the first of its kind ever to have been held in Sri Lanka.

Buddhist Teachings

He also followed the AbhiDharma, a part of Buddhism, and taught Buddhism during weekends. Postal Stamp The Sri Lankan government honoured Wilson Hegoda by issuing a postal stamp in 2015 to commemorate the centenary of his birth.


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