Award-winning photographer Paul Stevenson has been making waves across the world with a series of unusual and striking images, inspired by anything and everything from the local landscapes and light to his family and nature.
The Scremerston father has a number of accolades to his name. A hypnotic black and white close-up of his son’s eye won first place in a competition run by art mag Adore Noir, while a dramatic image of waves crashing over Berwick’s lighthouse was the winning entry in a Daily Telegraph competition.
Scottish Field used one of Paul’s images – a scene featuring a sunset-soaked campervan – as its cover shot in July last year; and a quirkily-captured stream at an old Fisherman’s bothy on the Tweed came second in a world Sony competition.
What is so surprising then, is that Paul didn’t pick up a camera seriously until just a few years ago, after he was diagnosed with late onset Tourette’s syndrome, seemingly triggered by the death of a close friend.
The former nightclub doorman and landscape gardener was keeping busy as a stay-at-home dad when the syndrome turned his life upside down at the age of 46.
He is one of 15% of the 300,000 sufferers in the UK with an extreme form of the condition, including expletive-laden and often bizarre outbursts, as well as body spasms.
“It went from being a tic to having involuntary body movements and swearing in the space of just a few months,” Paul says.
“I didn’t go out and I didn’t want to see anyone in case I frightened them, or they were staring at me.
“I have always enjoyed looking at other people’s pictures, so my wife Carol bought me a camera, just to try and get me out of the house really.
“I noticed that my tics weren’t as bad when I was taking pictures at home or out with the family, perhaps because it was helping me to focus on something.”
It quickly became his main hobby and a way of relaxing. Paul proved to have a natural talent for composition, capturing atmosphere and movement.
His photographs often offer an unusual perspective. He likes to take shots from ground level, giving people a totally new angle of a view they are used to seeing.
Commended by judges across the globe, his work has been hailed as “incredible” and “truly amazing”, with Paul credited with “a natural eye for photography”.
“I dream images, and I wake up and go and try and get them,” Paul reveals. “I have only done that since the condition started so that’s something.
“Do I think that the Tourette’s is a gift from God? No way, but it (the photography) is a positive thing that’s come from it.
“I have bad moments, it does get me down sometimes - I can’t pick my kids up from school because my tics go through the roof. I’m not always upbeat. It upsets me when people laugh at me when I’m out with my children.
“But I had to think do I let the condition beat me or do I not? I have young kids at home that need me, so I can’t afford to let it beat me.”
Paul has used his photographs to help spread awareness about Tourette’s, overlaying slogans like ‘Having Tourette’s syndrome doesn’t make me any less of a person - just more of an individual’, and ‘We might not be able to cure Tourette’s, but together we can cure ignorance’ over striking images of his children or a rainbow.
“If I can use my photographs to get across our message then great,” he said. “It’s about picking up on the positives and working with them, making a difference.
“It’s not about self promotion and I don’t go out to sell stuff. Sometime people have contacted me and asked if they can buy one of my images, and I’ve just asked them to make a donation to Tourette’s Action.”
Paul is hoping to exhibit a selection of his images in Berwick, to help raise awareness.
○To see more of Paul’s images go to https://500px.com/StevieWonder
○For more information about the condition and the support that is available go to www.tourettes-action.org.uk