Good photography is a big enough challenge as it is, so we are always doubly impressed by photographers who take creative pictures while also dealing with a range of physical and mental health issues. As the oldest weekly photography magazine in the world, we feel it’s AP’s duty to help make photography as inclusive as possible and to encourage everyone to enjoy it.
There is no reason why people can’t get involved with photography in some shape or form, and a great example of this is provided by Alex Ditch. Alex, 25, from Sunderland, has severely impaired vision, but this doesn’t stop him being a passionate and successful photographer. We found out more about his image making.
Alex, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your condition?
I am 25 years old, and was born with Bardet Beidel syndrome. This is basically a genetic condition which causes many medical problems – the main ones being blindness and a range of other physical issues.
I have some vision at the moment but my eyesight is like a dot compared to a ‘normal’ person’s. I have no peripheral vision too, which means I have tunnel vision, and also night blindness, so in the dimmest of light I struggle seeing things. I always go out with another adult.
My mum is my main carer when I am out and about, and with my camera. When I know what I want to photograph, I can feel around my camera as I know where all the buttons are, I ask for help when I need it to check my focus etc, as sometimes I am not sure if it’s my eyes or the lens which is the issue.
My mum also helps with certain aspects of editing as I can have trouble reading text against certain backgrounds, for example.
What kind of images do you like to take?
I love taking pictures of landscapes. We have a beautiful world out there, with some amazing architecture and scenery in all seasons, but I love autumn in particular as there are the most amazing colours. And I never get tired of taking wildlife, as no two photos are ever the same.
Do you use a specially adapted camera?
I don’t have an adapted camera at the moment. I use a Nikon Coolpix P950 but I’m looking at investing in a mirrorless camera to help me take better shots. I invested in a larger monitor and a decent printer to do a lot of my own printing. I’ve had a calendar printed for the last three years which has gone very well.
How has photography been helping you deal with your challenges?
Photography is playing a big part in my life right now, as I don’t really have that big a social circle. I have joined a lot of photography groups on Facebook and I like to chat to fellow photographers on Instagram – it’s a good way to get tips. I have really struggled with the lockdown.
Being classed as vulnerable and high risk, I’ve had to shield through most of it, so have only been able to grab a shot while exercising.
How do people react when they hear you are a photographer with sight issues?
When people hear I am a photographer, they tend to say ‘wow how do you see what you’re taking?’ Some are surprised, but I also get masses of encouragement and support. People say how much they like my work and admire me for doing it and say how amazed at how good my pictures are, considering my physical issues. This keeps me going.
I had always wanted to try photography when I was at school, but thought with my eyesight I wouldn’t be able to do it. So I took up archery for about 10 years with able-bodied and sighted people, which I loved. I still hold the junior Durham county record, which I’m very proud of. Sadly my eyesight got the better of my mobility, so I had to give it up.
Since I had always wanted to try photography I thought I would give it a go, and I have never looked back. I didn’t want my eyesight to stop me doing something I’d always wanted to do so I never gave up Anything is possible if it’s something you love.
How photography can help your mental health