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Animal Rights Activist With Autism Says Photography Saved His Life

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Animal Rights Activist With Autism Says Photography Saved His Life

Animal activist Alfie Bowen was diagnosed with autism in 2009 - just 12 years later he's signed a book deal, runs a successful fine photography business, and even had a film about his work released last month:

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But Alfie, now 23, is under no illusion that his greatest moments might never have happened following years of bullying and unacceptance from his peers at high school.

He felt alienated after what he described as the 'darkest chapter' of his life, and one that 'very nearly became the last chapter'.

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Luckily, he finally joined a private special educational needs school and graduated with A and B grades as well as being head student, head of student council and president of eco council.

After clinging on to his love of animals and photography, Alfie went on to gain five unconditional offers to study the subject at universities across the UK.

Speaking to LADbible, Alfie said: "Photography became an extension of my obsession with animals, and an escape from the dark days of high school. I am in no doubt that it saved my life.

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"Diagnosis was a bitter-sweet experience - it allowed me to access more intervention and assistance, but socially it opened up a can of worms - I was no longer accepted, was laughed at for my love of animals, and people distanced themselves as soon as 'autism' was mentioned.

"It was a painful wake-up call, and knowing that I was no longer accepted for exploring my passion was scary. High school was the darkest chapter of my life, and very nearly became the last chapter."

Credit: Alfie Bowen
Credit: Alfie Bowen

He went on: "I dreaded class time each and every day. I would spend the entire duration sitting at my desk, watching the clock hung on the wall in front of me, and praying that it would soon strike three o'clock so that I could escape and return home to my wildlife magazines."

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Alfie, from Suffolk, lasted three weeks at university before more bullying had caught up with him and he left - still with a dream of becoming a photographer. This became his sole focus.

He launched his company in 2018 with the help of Da Vinci Fine Art and went on to build his reputation as a fine-art photographer, selling his work all over the world. His photographs started selling for £25 ($34) and now he flogs pieces for over £2,000 ($2,700).

Credit: Alfie Bowen
Credit: Alfie Bowen

He went on to say: "I have focused on getting better at what I do, and as a result of that more opportunities have opened up. I work hard, and inject lots of passion into everything I do.

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"Everything I have done and continue to do is special, because I came from such difficult circumstances. I am achieving things now that I never thought possible on those darkest of days - it is proof that the sun will always shine again, and that thing really do get better.

"Being referred too as an 'inspiration to autistic people' was a special moment because I know how much I would have benefitted from having more autistic role models when I was growing up. There is no greater pleasure and honour than being able to make an autistic child feel less alien, less alone."

Alfie has gone on to work with and support the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) resulting in him working on promoting several projects including Earth Hour and David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, as well as having his own film An Eye For Detail on wildlife documentary streaming service WaterBear Network.

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When it comes to work, Alfie said: "I enjoy spending time around the animals I photograph. I think I connect emotionally to them on a much deeper level than I do with most humans, simply because I know the cannot judge me and they cannot laugh at me.

"I often spend hours at a time with an individual animal - it allows me to connect with them, to learn about their characters, and to capture the emotional and intimate photographs I have become known for.

"It also allows me to switch off from the pressure of the the world, and it's the only time I am truly at peace."

You can watch Alfie's film on the WaterBear Network here and on Instagram here. Alfie is now signed with Castle Fine Art and his debut collection will launch across their network of galleries in Spring 2021.

Featured Image Credit: Alfie Bowen

Topics: Photography, Community, UK, Autism

Rebecca Shepherd
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