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Mental health awareness week: "My work means more to me than money – it’s my therapy"

Canon photographer Phil Benton is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, County Durham, UK (Image credit: Phil Benton)

When I was 19 I was a painter and decorator and became bedridden for five months – I thought I head lead poisoning from the paint! I now know that I had ME, and I have suffered with it and been chronically fatigued for almost 40 years. 

When the pandemic hit and the lockdowns followed I could empathize with the problems many people would be facing. I was determined to use my photography (opens in new tab) to bring people joy during the pandemic and started adding inspirational quotes to my photos – they’ve gone down a storm on social media and people have been buying prints to get them for Christmas, which is amazing!

The lockdown would have floored the old me, but I thought, no, I’m not letting it. My work means more to me than money – it’s my therapy. The fact it also brings joy to other people is the icing on the cake. I work with Consett’s This is Me Agency (opens in new tab), which supports disabled people.

Starling Bath Time

Starling Bath Time (Image credit: Phil Benton)

I took my image Starling Bath Time in the spring through my kitchen window, being careful to aim through my blinds and wait for the perfect moment. To add to the humour I captioned it “Come on, it’s your turn now…” “No chance if I’m going to come out looking like you.”

The Lights

The Lights (Image credit: Phil Benton)

For my shot, The Lights, I spotted a large full moon while driving home one evening and decided to make a detour to the Herd Groyne in South Shields. On arriving there I decided I wanted to show all the light sources in the scene, including the full moon and both lighthouses. It was an amazing feeling when this image was Highly Commended in the National Landscape Photographer of the Year competition in 2017.

A Touch of Winter

A Touch of Winter (Image credit: Phil Benton)

I took my image A Touch of Winter at Shotley Bridge, County Durham. I knew what type of picture I wanted to get and waited until there was a dusting of snow to act as an edging. This was taken at around 10am, as it was important to get the early light. 

The light was coming through the branches and the water was smooth and calm ensuring the perfect reflections. I was able to capture the exact photograph I had envisioned, even if I nearly lost my tripod in the process, but that’s just part of the job!

Read more

Photography is good for your mental health (opens in new tab)
Why taking photos improves your wellbeing (opens in new tab)
Get into mindful photography (opens in new tab)

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