Photography: discovering a passion after brain injury

Joe Wilson sustained a brain injury seven years ago. Now aged 22 he explains how he developed a passion for photography and how it helps him overcome some of the challenges he’s faced.

Joe Wilson
Joe at his exhibition at the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford
At age 15 Joe’s bike collided with a car resulting in a brain injury. Joe was in hospital for five weeks, three of which he was in a coma, and the next six weeks were spent at home with Joe learning to walk and talk again before his return to school. Seven years on we meet Joe in the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, where he proudly shows us his photography exhibition on display in Outpatients, running from 20 July to 16 August. This is not Joe’s first exhibition and certainly not his last given the stunning photography we see. A year ago his work was exhibited at the Allen Gallery in Alton and plans are afoot for an exhibition in a Basingstoke gallery later this summer. After showing us his work, Joe tells us how he got into photography, the enjoyment it brings and how it helped him after his brain injury.

Joe’s journey behind the lens

“As a child I had a ‘point and shoot’ camera and I enjoyed photography.  I didn’t do GCSE photography but I did A-level. I fell in love with photography immediately and I was out every day taking photos. “I used to take my camera every single place I went. Now I’ll plan to take it to certain places. I might get on my bike, taking the camera with me, or go further in the car.  “The photos in my exhibition include close-ups of bees and flowers and landscapes of Guildford and the surrounding countryside, such as Newlands Corner and St Martha’s Hill. “I did a framing course and have framed the pictures myself. To get my work into galleries I approached them and spoke to the managers. I found out about the hospital exhibiting work through my girlfriend’s aunt.  “I’ve always been an outdoor person – I loved cubs, scouts, doing my Duke of Edinburgh and climbing. That’s why I like landscapes and close-up photography of insects or plants. “Photography makes me happy – a landscape or flower can make me think ‘wow’. I’ll take a photo and I can cherish that memory forever. “I’ve always had a very practical side and this is even more so since my head injury. I did well in my A-level photography and I’ve been proud of my work since with the exhibitions. “I like photography as it takes me off into my own world and it’s escapism for me. “It clears my mind if I’m angry or upset and it gives me the time to think and calm down. “I still find cognitive things a challenge. I can be impulsive and can have trouble remembering appointments and things. “However, I’m pretty independent. I do all the cooking at home and the housework. If I set my mind to something I can do it. “I like having caring people around me. My girlfriend Hayley will drive me to appointments or to places to take pictures; I used to go to Aberdeenshire every summer to visit my grandad and take photographs; and I talk to my nan on the phone every week. My parents paid for my framing course and Hayley’s family have been to my exhibitions. Having support really helps and Hayley encourages me to try things. “My advice to others would be try and be the best you can be. I had to work really hard. “Most of my physical recovery took place when I was in hospital. Now it’s the cognitive side that can be challenging. “I’d say no matter how hard it may seem at first, give it a go.” Joe’s work can be viewed on his Facebook page PhotographybyjoeJoe received help from The Children’s Trust’s Brain Injury Community Service after his accident at the age of 15.
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