Wildlife Photography: Saving My Life One Frame at a Time, explores the links between well-being and wildlife photography. This unique book by photographer Paul Williams charts Paul’s own journey, which has seen his passion for photography and nature, and how it helped to heal the mental wounds that left him hopeless and suicidal.
Demonstrating how wildlife photography has the power to improve physical and mental well-being, the book is designed to appeal to a wide range of individuals, from beginners with very little photographic experience through to those further along on their photographic journey, as well as those interested in Paul’s odyssey from rock bottom to rediscovery of a life worth living.
TV presenter, conservationist and nature photographer Chris Packham CBE commented after reading the book: ‘Photography has the power to change people’s minds; here, it’s a means of mending a mind, illustrating a brutally honest visual journey through Paul’s account of his breakdown and recovery. Uplifting and beautiful in its simplicity, this is a heartening tale of how a closer bond with nature can heal the human mind.’
Throughout the book we learn how wildlife photography pulled Paul back from the brink after his very challenging careers took their toll on his mental state. A career soldier, he went on to become a highly qualified physical training instructor before shattering both ankles in a climbing accident. After leaving the military Paul gained a first class honours in clinical mental health nursing, and worked as a senior mental health specialist in assertive outreach.
At the age of 40, Paul decided on a complete career change and joined the police. In 2010 he developed PTSD after defending four people against a mentally ill, samurai sword-wielding woman, and became very unwell very quickly, attempting suicide three times before experiencing a significant breakthrough with a new psychotherapy treatment.
Already an amateur photographer with some 20 years’ experience, Paul picked up his camera to give him an incentive to get out, as he had become far too reclusive. He discovered great satisfaction from sitting in still, quiet spaces waiting for wildlife to appear (or not, as was often the case).
What makes the book so unique is how Paul is able to combine practical help on photography alongside an insightful commentary on his mental well-being. For example:
‘All three of these images were shot in my garden on a bright, sunny day that gave me plenty of light to help keep the shutter speed high – essential if you want to keep fast-moving subjects sharp, and you don’t have, or want to use, flash. Knowing I had only to go into my garden to take these images meant a lot of the stress I associated with going out among people was significantly reduced. Looking back, I now know that finding the motivation to take these images when I was so unwell were important first steps on the road to my recovery.’
With general tips and points about equipment, fieldcraft and techniques, this fabulously-illustrated book of over 200 original colour images seamlessly aligns photography with creative suggestions around mindfulness, well-being and holism to create a blueprint for all, and especially anyone experiencing poor mental or physical health, who would like to express themselves creatively in the natural world.
A visual celebration of the beauty of the natural world, and the power that this and photography have to improve the quality of our physical and mental well-being, Wildlife Photography: Saving My Life One Frame at a Time, will be published on 10th September 2019 by Hubble & Hattie, an imprint of Veloce Publishing.
Image credit: Freepik