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My love of photography conquered my illness

From a very early age, photography intrigued me. My Mum would always have her Canon 35mm point and shoot at various occasions and of course not forgetting those great 90’s polaroid photos. I was always around photography in some sense, thanks to my Mum. Then on my 6th birthday, I received the perfect present; a Barbie 35mm point and shoot film camera! From then on, I adored the process of capturing the images and then popping down to our local pharmacy to get them developed and printed; I was amazed at the technique of it all.

Unfortunately, also at the age of 6, I became ill with Juvenile Arthritis and with it taking four long years to receive a diagnosis, my world transformed into it being solely about my illness, staying in hospitals, injections, blood tests; everything you could think of, my life at such a young age was consumed by illness. It stole my childhood.

Moving forward to age 11, my Arthritis was up and down, but I received my very first digital camera. A Nikon Coolpix (which I actually still have tucked away somewhere), probably only with a few megapixels at the time, considering this was Summer 2004, but that little camera came at the perfect time. I would start snatching those everyday shots and of course those special family photos, I absolutely loved that Coolpix and learning how you truly capture moments with a camera.

Fast forward a couple of years to age 13, when life took a turn for the worse. I became very ill very quickly. At first everyone assumed it was my Arthritis deteriorating, but in fact, it was severe M.E. It changed everything for me, my whole life turned upside down, again due to illness. Over the years my M.E deteriorated to the point that I am now, where I am no longer able to walk or even stand. I am hoisted from bed to wheelchair and so forth. Due to all of the various debilitating symptoms I endure with severe M.E, I’m bed bound around 90% of the time, which certainly has taken its toll on me as a whole.

When I finally found an accessible property here in Exeter five years ago, it was the first time in four years that I wasn’t stuck in either hospitals, units or care homes and that for me was a breath of fresh air. I began my journey all over again of truly loving photography, but this time around, it felt different, as I fell head over heels for this magical art form and a true passion was reignited.

Photography is my main passion in life and is something I absolutely couldn’t live without! It’s my outlet and truly enables me to cope as much as I can with my illness and the general restrictions I have in my life. It also gives me a huge positive focus, without it, I’d be completely lost, as I push through the bad times with the help of this fantastic creative outlet; helping me to focus on something positive and unquestionably helping my mental health in every way, by serving as the best kind of distraction.

I adore photographing with both film and digital formats, being a hybrid shooter, personally makes things much more interesting in terms of serving my creativity in a positive way.

There’s a range of photographic genres that interest me, but I’d say the ones that I engage with and that capture my creative attention the most are- music, landscape, portraits and architectural photography. That’s quite a broad range of photography, hence why I never get bored with this wonderful art form.

My most recent work happened to be exhibited at Poltimore House during the TYPify2018 arts festival in July. It was an absolutely incredible experience displaying my project ‘Isca; The Eras Of Exeter’, which happened to all be photographed on medium format film. And with it being my first ‘film only’ project, I certainly learnt a great deal.

I now have a few varied ongoing projects in the works, from setting up a local music magazine to a charity based project and various other ideas that have been swirling around my forever overactive mind. With each piece of work, my true aim is to create something unique and capture something real, a moment in time.

If you’re looking for a creative outlet, whether that be to simply get involved in a new hobby, which may well develop into a passion. Or if like me, you struggle severely each day with your mental and/or physical health and desperately need a distraction, an outlet for the chaos in your life, then I would highly recommend picking up a camera. Whether that be film or digital, whichever preference you may have, at the end of the day, the magic is in capturing a moment, it truly doesn’t make a difference what your choice of gear happens to be, photography will grab hold of you in such a way that you will see the world in a different light and simultaneously gain some positivity in your life.


  1. Charmian S Berry

    Wonderful outlook on what could be a very sad and lonely time for you . I have learnt through our friendship on FB just how you love photography and how it inspires you to keep,looking and keep fighting . I also understand your struggles with life in general and as always I wish they might have a breakthrough that could help with your daily living – you certainly deserve it having lost so much of your young life to ME I have nothing’s but great admiration for what you have managed to do thus far and hope you will continue to be inspired xx

    • Hannah O’Brien

      Thank you so much Charmian! Your kind words mean an awful lot to me!
      And thank you for your continued support with everything that I do and create with my passions.
      There’s so much I’d love to work on and I definitely won’t let my illnesses prevent me from moving forward and pursuing my dreams.

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