Engagement Story Two

A middle-aged man who lives on his own in a flat with his dog as his companion. He describes himself as “not lonely any more but happily single”. He has a daughter from a previous relationship who does not live locally but visits. His sister lives locally. She is his carer. Their relationship has had its ups and downs in the past as they were estranged from each other for twelve years at one point. He was born just over the border from Cornwall in Devon and has lived in Cornwall since 1983. He has some education and at one time worked for BP though he was made redundant.

He has challenges in his physical and mental health as a number of years ago he suffered a nervous breakdown. He suffers from PTSD, (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). He is a very anxious person, is agoraphobic (has an extreme fear of open or public places) and suffers from panic attacks. He said that “My anxiety is killing me.” When he has a panic attack he cannot control what triggers them, though he has learnt to control his actual attacks. He has been in and out of the mental health system for a number of years.

His agoraphobia means that on some days he did not want to leave his flat, but when he got his dog he had to leave the house. They are both in not the best of physical health as the man has asthma and his dog is ten years old but they both manage to walk around the block four to six times a day. His sister will drive him into Penzance and they will go round the shops and his agoraphobia is not as bad when he is in familiar surroundings.

He learnt about the course from a person who was a social prescriber at a walking group he occasionally attended. He has an interest in photography and wants to learn more. The course opened up a whole new world about photography to him. He managed to attend most of the sessions in Penzance though sometimes he felt overwhelmed, and he might have had to leave before the end of a session, though usually once he got to the group, he was fine. He felt welcomed in a non-judgemental space and was always encouraged to come the following week. He was always welcomed when he could attend.

The course so inspired him that he managed to save to purchase a laptop to assist him in editing photos. He has especially enjoyed the editing and computer ‘developing’ that you can do to the photos afterwards, when back at home. He said before going on the course when he used to go out, he would always try to take the perfect picture “all at once” and was always disappointed with his results, but once he learnt how to edit and manipulate his images via the applications that were introduced to him on the course his photos got so much better which spurred him on to do more.

He got much satisfaction in showing his photos to other people in the group and sharing photos online. He liked seeing people’s different interpretations of a subject or a theme and seeing things from a person’s different perspective. He felt pride and joy in seeing people’s reactions and comments: people smiling and being appreciative. He talked about some personal achievements in his photography. He was very proud to have taken photos with his daughter when she visited, and they went out at night to walk barefoot on the beach, and he took pictures of St Michaels Mount in the moonlight.

He said that his photography has been revolutionised by the advice to purchase a ‘Gimbal’, a device that allows your digital camera to rotate slowly along an axis, helping to stabilise the camera. Before he had one, he used to shake a lot when taking a photo. He is still learning to use this equipment. Before this purchase, he had to use a tripod with his camera or lean on a wall or fence. He said it was great advice to get one and that it was money well spent.

He still has challenges with his physical and mental health, his dog is getting very old, and he has issues with his current housing situation. Still, the photography course and the skills and knowledge he now possesses has given him another outlook on life. It has also given him a purpose and a pastime to occupy himself during the winter months when he spends a lot of his time editing his photographs:

“It’s like a new hobby within a hobby”.

He had nothing but praises for the tutor. “Ruth was brilliant and really knows her stuff. And it was reassuring for me to see that even she can get a little nervous at times.” I enjoyed learning about different types of photography; he learned a lot and is still putting his knowledge into practice. If there is another photography course in Penzance, he will really consider attending and doing more.