I've always enjoyed photography and have had a camera for as long as I can remember. I'll never forget the sense of pride I felt when I won a Brownie competition with a photo of my sister with the seven sisters in the background (guess what I called it...!). When we went on family holidays, I may have forgotten my toothbrush and underwear but I would always have packed a couple of rolls of 36exp film for my point-and-shoot. I'm glad that I grew up in the days of film because I think that you learn an awful lot about composing photos carefully when you only have a limited number of chances to get it right.
My first digital camera was a chunky Sony Cybershot with a tiny screen that I bought from a friend. It may not have been the world's best camera, but it opened my eyes to the possibilities of digital capture and I was hooked. In 2008 I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Thailand with work and decided I needed a decent camera for this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I bought a Nikon D40 after trying my brother's and I loved it! I'd never had an SLR before but I was determined to learn how to use it properly so that I could take more creative control over my picture-making.
Since then it's been a constant stream of photo mags and web forums as I try to improve my technique and skill. In 2010 I upgraded to a Nikon D300s and splashed out on a very decent lens. However, it's not all about the equipment. I think you can be a great photographer whatever you use to capture your images. I don't pretend to be a great photographer, but I do take a lot of pleasure in capturing the beauty of the world around me. I hope you enjoy looking at my images as much as I enjoyed taking them.
My Spiritual Journey
I have always believed in God, but I didn't become a Christian until I was 19 (I am now 36). I was brought up going to my local high Anglican church and, although I knew a lot of facts about God, I didn't know God personally. I thought that being a Christian just meant going to church once a week and that was it. It had nothing to do with real life. I then started to have problems when I realised that I was attracted to a girl at school. For many years I struggled with my feelings and I felt very guilty which led me to be depressed when I was in sixth form. I did stupid things to try and attract attention because I was very insecure and, although I occasionally prayed to God asking him if it was ok to be gay, I couldn't hear him answering me. I saw university as a chance to make a new life for myself and I didn't intend to go to church any more. I used my new found 'freedom' to act just how I wanted to, but found that doing all the things I'd wanted didn't give me the security and happiness I had hoped for.
I joined the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Society (LBG) and, even though I enjoyed the meetings, I still wasn't happy because I felt there was something missing from my life.
Meanwhile, my Mum had been asking me on the phone if I had found a church yet so, in January 1996, I decided to go along to church with another girl from my hall. It was very different from my church at home and they talked about applying the Bible to your life every single day.
We both decided to go along to Christian Union and at first I hated it. They sang lots of modern songs and prayed freely out loud and I was worried because I'd always thought that sort of thing was dodgy. We signed up to go on the houseparty the next week and I remember being so scared because I didn't know what to expect. When we got on the coach a girl opposite us whipped out some knitting and I wondered what I'd let myself in for! However, I had a really good time, although at this point I still hadn't made a commitment to God.
I was still doing things that deep inside I
knew I shouldn't be, but one day when I was walking back from an LGB
meeting I was praying that God would help me know what to do about
everything I'd learnt. When I got back I shut myself in my room and read
the passage of the Bible that had been preached about one Sunday at
church (Romans 8: 1-4) It was then that I became a Christian. The Holy
Spirit opened my eyes and I realised for the first time how bad I was. I
realised that I couldn't ever be good enough and that I did not deserve
to go to heaven on my own merit, but Jesus had taken the punishment for
my sin on the cross. All those years I thought God wasn't answering my
prayers, but I realised that he'd been speaking to me all along and I
just wasn't prepared to listen to him.
I realised that living a gay lifestyle wasn't what God wanted for me and that he was offering me something even better - an unconditional love that will last forever, and freedom from death. And so I prayed to accept Jesus into my life. Just after that at a CU meeting, I felt that God was prompting me to tell everyone how I became a Christian. Even though I was very nervous and worried about what people would think, God seemed to put words into my mouth and I was very encouraged by the response to what I said.
Since then, many things have changed. I'm no longer afraid of dying, and my life has a new purpose and direction. God has also given me some really good friendships. In 1997 I went to Spring Harvest with a group of friends, which was a mixed experience for me. On the one hand I felt intimidated by being surrounded by so many Christians, because I felt I didn't want to share 'My' God with them, and it brought out a rebellious streak in me, so that I spent most of the time playing on the arcades and smoking. On the other hand, when I got home, I suddenly missed the worship times and decided that I had to find a local church to go to. At first I felt overwhelmed and despondent as I looked in the phone book and saw how many churches there were near me. I also didn't have a clue whether to go for Anglican, Methodist, URC, Baptist, Pentecostal etc. It would take forever to try them all and select a suitable one! Then it dawned on me that I could pray about it, and as a result of this, the third church I tried (Hazel Grove Baptist church) was clearly the one that God was leading me to. There have been many times when I have been uncertain and frightened about the future, but God gave me a picture of the way I should trust him. Imagine you are a child in a field of really tall grass which you can't see over. You have no idea which way to go. However, you hold on to your father's hand (God) and because you know he loves you, you can trust him to lead you in the right direction. He can see clearly even though you can't.
It is often very difficult to be a Christian in this world and I would not be truthful if I didn't acknowledge that it has been hard at times. I still have bad days and good days, but the overall focus of my life is what's changed. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder and this is sometimes really difficult to live with, but I know that God is always with me and he gives me strength to carry on even in the really hard times.
I am still often tempted to do wrong, especially in relationships with women, and indeed sometimes I give in to that temptation. But God is forgiving and thanks to his love for me I continue to get stronger in my faith. He is the one that I love more than anything or anyone else and I need to hold onto that.
There have been other challenges to my faith too. My sister was taken seriously ill shortly after I had become a Christian and it was very worrying for the whole family. But I prayed every day that God would heal her and I knew that he loves her even more than I do. She is now doing well and I am very thankful to God for that. She has a kind husband and a lovely daughter, Hazel, who is a delight to the whole family. This is just one example of the many times God has answered my prayers.
It is often hard when people insult you for being a Christian or make life harder for you because of your faith. Sometimes I think to myself "Is it worth it?" but the answer is always an emphatic "Yes!". As it says in Romans 8: 17 "We are heirs...of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."
Thank you for reading my story. Please get in touch!