My name is Joe James and I'm autistic. I was diagnosed five years ago, age 32. Life was always hard because I didn't fit in and didn't know why. Recently, people have started to accept me, but I still feel down sometimes. Last year I got into photography, it became my special interest and I bought a camera. I did it because I had slipped into a depression and it helped me focus on doing something positive. Along with mindfulness and the love and support of my amazing wife and beautiful children, I was able to come out of the tunnel into the light. My photos continue to help to me, they make me happy and keep the anxiety at bay, most days. This year I put them on Facebook and the response was brilliant. I decided to tell everyone I was autistic, to be proud of it. I was overwhelmed by the love from people I didn't even know. I started talking about my autism and writing poetry to go with my photos. Now I'm getting all sorts of offers to help spread autism awareness. I will be giving talks at schools to help the next generation learn. There are many people who do this, I'm just using my photos to help as much as I can.
Nature has given me so much happiness and it is my pleasure to represent it the way I do. I love showcasing the Sussex countryside in all its beautiful glory.
Path to Tranquillity
My wife and I are as close as two people can be. We choose to spend as much time with each other as we can and rarely are apart. We love our days out together and make sure we treasure every moment, because we never know how long we have got. This was taken on a trip to Littlehampton, West Beach. We strolled along and she patiently waited while I took photos. This photo is one memory of many memories I have with my perfect friend.
I took this at Buchan Park in West Sussex. I was out early in the morning catching shots of the sunlight coming through the trees. It always looks magical to me. It wasn't my best shot of the day and for many months it was overlooked. One evening I was feeling low and decided to play with my photos. It's my form of mindfulness to help when I get anxious or depressed. I listen to music and edit images to make me calm. I played around with this image, I found in my files and when I had finished, I was blown away with how much I loved it. The therapy had worked and I couldn't stop smiling.
This was taken at the Seven Sisters in East Sussex. It was my wife's idea to go there as she loves the views. The whole family went and we watched the sunset together. We are a close family and they are the reason I get through hard times. Being autistic is great as we have special abilities, which I call superpowers. But at times it can be hard when people don't accept you. My family always accept me.
Roots of the Sun
Early one morning my wife and I climbed Chanctonbury Ring. The sunrise was epic and I saw this beautiful tree. I love trees and always feel a huge connection with them. We depend on them for so much (air mostly) and we are all made of ribonucleic acid, theirs is RNA, ours is DNA. The fundamental building blocks are the same. I love nature because it doesn't judge me, or make me feel bad for being autistic. I can just be me and that’s all I ever want.
It was the first photography trip after I had watched a video about how light can change a photo. I pulled my son, who is 17, out of the door and said 'we are going to Cissbury Ring'. I only bought my camera a couple of weeks before that and was excited to use it. When we arrived, I looked to my favourite tree and saw all the ponies crowded around it. I knew that was the photo, but we were facing away from the sun. We trekked around the tree, keeping a wide birth so as not to disturb the ponies, and when I was facing the sun, I snapped away. My son and I watched the sunset while listening to What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong. It was a perfect memory.
Colours of Autumn
This was taken at Sheffield Park Gardens. I went with my best friend and unofficial therapy dog Milo. He often accompanies me on my days out and loves getting in my shots. I think he's vain. I love trees, especially in autumn. The colours make me feel warm inside and that feeling is even better than the summer sun on your skin. This was my favourite shot of the day and I'll never forget when several people asked if they could take photos of Milo.
Looking for Pooh Bear [main image]
This was taken in Ashdown Forest on a day out with my daughter, who is 15. She is also on the spectrum and we are inseparable. We spent the morning playing Poohsticks and eating honey sandwiches before heading deeper into the forest. I saw the light coming through the trees and was blown away by the beauty that nature had produced. I called my daughter over and we stared at the scene. I said 'that's a living photograph'. I was bottling this moment so we could appreciate it over and over again.