Oliver is a young nature photographer who happens to have Down’s syndrome. Here, Oliver and his mum tell us what photography means to him.
Q&A with Oliver
Scope: When did you first start taking photos?
Oliver: I was little – I was about 10 years old.
Scope: What is it about nature that you find so interesting?
Oliver: I like wildlife, I like birds and I like the landscape and taking pictures of the trees. I like water and I like going for walks out into ‘the wild’ and the countryside.
Oliver: I like birds of prey and I really like long tailed tits.
Scope: How did you feel when you sold your first photograph?
Oliver: We had an exhibition and lots of people came to see my pictures. I gave a speech and we sold lots of pictures and with the money I bought a Chinese takeaway for us on the Sunday night when we finished, and bought a holiday in a cottage in Wales in the middle of nowhere! I’m very proud when I have an exhibition.
Scope: If you weren’t taking photos in your spare time, what do you think you’d be doing?
Oliver: I play football and snooker, and I don’t do so much skateboarding so much anymore. I read my books and my magazines and I like to watch TV. I still do bird-watching and walking in the countryside even if I don’t take pictures with my camera.
Scope: What would you say to other young disabled people who don’t have much confidence?
Oliver: Just do it. Just go out there and do what you want!
Scope: How have your followers on Facebook and the publicity around your photos made you feel?
Oliver: It’s good. I like it. My fans say ‘that’s amazing!’ about my pictures and write messages to me. Yeah it’s good. I like it when we get more places to put on the map!
Wendy, Oliver’s mum
Oliver was born with Down’s syndrome, and severe cardiac issues requiring open heart surgery at three months old. During his early years he was also diagnosed with severe hypotonia (poor muscle tone) and verbal dyspraxia. I was told he wouldn’t be able to take part in sporting activities, and that his speech would probably never reach a point where he could be understood by an unfamiliar listener. However with belief, determination and input from myself and Oliver’s big sister Anna (who was eight when he was born) by the time he was eight years old he was skateboarding as well as playing football, basketball and snooker, and at 10 years old was asking perfectly clearly for a Subaru Imprezza with a spoiler on the back and a Bugatti Veyron for his birthday!
Oliver is testament to the fact that anyone can achieve and prove negative predictions to be wrong, when they are surrounded by optimism, belief, determination and encouragement. My partner Mike has been best mate and stepfather all rolled into one for Oliver – they both love wildlife, the countryside, and bird-watching. Mike came into Oliver’s life when Oliver was nine. When Oliver was about 10 or 11 he started to want to take photos “like Mike”.
Mike’s targeted tuition and guidance has helped Oliver to use the world of photography as both a tool for him to record what he sees in the way he sees it, and as something which brings Oliver a great sense of pride and self-esteem. He takes pictures of everything and anything which ‘catches’ his eye and will spend as much time and effort on a torn and ragged leaf or some broken sticks as he will on a beautiful bloom. He loves the light catching anything and particularly water. He will spend ages capturing splashes at the bottom of a waterfall or in a rocky river. Birds are probably his greatest love and his knowledge and ability to identify any bird at a glance and even from a distance is astounding. Oliver takes pictures of things other people walk past because he notices the detail the rest of us miss. He sees beauty where we do not, and to a certain extent his having Down’s syndrome ‘releases’ him from the ‘rules’ and expectations of what is perceived to be worthy of a picture, which the rest of us adhere to without even realising. Oliver makes weeds look brilliant!
He is a truly inspirational young man who loves life and loves what he does, and seeks to be a ‘professional’ earning a proper income from his talent. His achievements are changing and improving the expectations of others, championing disability, and helping to banish outdated and negative stereotypes associated with Down’s syndrome. We receive so many heart-warming messages from parents of disabled children explaining the huge difference Oliver has made to their lives by restoring hopes, dreams and aspirations for their children. He illustrates just how important it is that we value and enjoy diversity in society, and spreads the news that ‘difference’ can be something to be truly celebrated.
Oliver was recently featured in a lovely film piece on the One Show, and on BBC news worldwide. He’s currently crowdfunding for his first coffee table book to be published – so get in quick and bag yourself a copy of the first edition.
You can visit Oliver’s website to see and purchase his photographs as prints or greetings cards. You can also like Oliver’s Facebook page and get up to date news from his sightings in your newsfeed. Feeling inspired?