I embraced photography for the pleasure of capturing beautiful images or dramatic moments but also, it turns out for it’s mental health benefits (without realising it – and before mindfulness was the big business it is today!).
As Chief Scientific Adviser for an international charity, an escape into the all-enthralling pursuit of capturing the natural world around me soothed my soul and stilled (if only temporarily) my ever active mind.
But sometimes life throws a curve-ball.
In January 2019, when in Nairobi, Kenya, to take part in a United Nations’ Environment Programme Global Pact for the Environment meeting, my curve-ball made itself known: I was caught up in a large-scale Al-Shabaab terrorist attack.
It was a trip of firsts:
- my first trip to Kenya
- my first time encountering and photographing Kenyan wildlife including a troop of baboons living wild and free. Even better for being a serendipitous sighting from the road while en-route to the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and a delightful insight into their wild family life
- my first time addressing a plenary session of a UN meeting and a day later, my first experience of carnage and death at the hands of terrorists! A month later I lost another colleague to the Ethiopian plane crash.
I thought I’d coped quite well but my subconscious mind had clearly decided the world was a dangerous place and started to shut me down: I was experiencing PTSD from the terrorist attack. Then Covid arrived and the world outside really was a dangerous place. My subconscious brain went into a tailspin!
But nature, photography, the support of fantastic family and friends, and CBT, pulled me back from the brink. The thrall of the camera: the possibility that each click of the shutter could result in an amazing image; and, the soothing process of editing and tweaking an image into something even better gave me a purpose. I find it all so therapeutic.
Photography takes me to fabulous places, either alone or with good friends, creating wonderful memories as well as images. With the beauty of the South Downs on our doorstep we are spoiled for choice! Stunning land and sea-scapes, an abundance of nature and urban landscapes like Chichester, Winchester and Brighton too.
Of course, you don’t need to go through a crazy terrorist attack to enjoy mindfulness through photography. You don’t even need to see it as mindfulness, it may be your hobby, even your career. Photography is a fabulous pastime and great fun too.
That’s why – during lockdown and with long-standing photographic friends Guy, Sue and Pauline – we decided to start South Downs Photographic Society and spread the enjoyment of photography to a wider audience.
We have an engaging programme full of speakers, photographic trips, practical sessions and social-snapping.