Award-winning Suffolk photographer releases debut book
- Credit: Alfie Bowen
There are few things more calming than the beauty of nature – and no one understand the power of the natural world more than Alfie Bowen.
Based in Beccles, this Suffolk photographer has spent the last four years working on his debut photography book, ‘Wild World – Nature Through an Autistic Eye’.
A wide variety of species have been captured by his enquiring lens - including lions, tigers, cheetahs, chimpanzees, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, eagles, flamingos, and more.
Alfie, who has autism spectrum disorder and generalised anxiety disorder, first developed an interest in the skill back in 2014 as an escape from the bullying he faced in school.
“I also got into photography as extension of my obsession with animals, which I’ve pretty much had my whole life,” explains the self-taught photographer.
“As a child, I spent a lot of time watching documentaries and reading books non-stop. Eventually, I got bored of that so picked up a camera and took it everywhere with me, and I haven’t looked back.”
As the years have gone on, Alfie has since made a name for himself in the world of photography – amassing over 16,700 followers on his Instagram page alone.
Being based here in East Anglia, Alfie has luckily been able to frequent wildlife parks such as Banham Zoo, Africa Alive in Kessingland, and Colchester Zoo to get up close and personal with a range of animals that have since formed the basis of his work.
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“I’ve been visiting Africa Alive and Banham Zoo since I was two years old, and they both played an important part in my journey. They became my escape from the pressures of school, and we’d go there a lot as it’s where I’d forget about my anxiety.”
Just looking at his work, you can see the sheer amount time and effort that has gone into Alfie’s pictures. But just how does he get that perfect shot every time?
“I feel my autism definitely helps shape my creativity, as I focus a lot more on details,” he explains.
“I pick up on every little detail, which can be quite overwhelming in my day-to-day life, but it’s quite an important part of my overall photography style and aesthetic. My autism also gives me the determination to go out and get the photos.
“What I’ll do is sketch out all of my picture ideas before I go and shoot them. I’ll then spend some six hours at time getting the perfect shot – although sometimes it can take me months to get the picture I want.”
It's that exact precision and keen eye for detail that creates the stunning shots Alfie manages to produce time and time again.
And his hard work has not gone unnoticed, as he took home the award for the Zoological Society of East Anglia Wildlife Photographer of the Year back in 2016.
“My favourite animal to shoot is flamingos. I love their vibrancy, and the details and texture of their feathers especially.”
But with lockdown closing zoos for an extended period of time, did this hamper his progress at all?
“I actually took all of my pictures by the time lockdown happened, so it was more a case of using that time to focus on my writing. I wrote a long essay about my journey with autism, and how that led me into photography - and that can be found at the start of the book.”
Also within the book is a foreword by television presenter and nature photographer Chris Packham, who has been a huge influence on Alfie and his subsequent work.
“Chris has been my main inspiration over the years. He was the only person with autism that I knew of when I was a child, and I actually met him when I was eight years old at RSPB Minsmere.
“All these years later, I still speak to him from time to time, and he’s quite a big supporter of mine. I asked him if he’d be interested in writing the foreword – I never imagined he would, but I was so happy when he did.”
For every copy of his book sold, Alfie will be donating 50p to the World Wildlife Fund, and for every copy sold on his website, he will be planting a tree in Scotland.
“One of the main messages with my book is that we need to care more for the natural world, especially with all that’s going on at the moment. I also wish to raise awareness for autism, and for people to be more accepting of one another.”
‘Wild World – Nature Through an Autistic Eye’ is due to be published in hardback on Wednesday September 1 by ACC Art Books.
To find out more about Alfie or to pre-order his book, visit alfiebowen.com