A teenager with crippling anxiety issues has beaten agoraphobia by looking at the world through a camera lens – and taking stunning wildlife pictures.
Liam Filtness (corr), 18, spent his teens paralysed with fear at the thought of leaving his room – and even dropped out of school because he couldn’t cope with going outside.
But after his dad forced him to go to a park, Liam discovered the world seemed like a less scary place if he was looking at animals through the viewfinder of a camera – and eventually he overcame his crippling fears.
Liam, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, said: “My uncle works outside in the woods, and I’d go out with him from a young age, maybe about ten, when I got my first camera, so I was in woodlands and things quite a lot.
“At the age of 13 I started to stay indoors all the time, not wanting to speak to people stuff like that. It came on quite suddenly.
“Going to school became this huge problem and I would literally hate leaving the house.
“From about 15 it was the worst – I basically never left my room or my house for a whole year.
“I remember specifically taking pictures of deer in Richmond Park with my dad when I was around 16, and just falling completely in love with it.
“It was a turning point because things with my anxiety started to get better from then on.
“Spending so many hours out in the wildlife is so calming, you’re really engaging with nature, spending all day waiting for the perfect shot, hearing the sounds of the forest, the smells, everything is so peaceful.”
Once-reclusive Liam now spends all his time in the great outdoors, taking gorgeous pictures of all manner of our native wildlife.
After Liam finished his education by being home-schooled, the lad now has enough confidence to be able to travel across the country to take the perfect snap.
He was recently up in Scotland, exploring the rural areas of Dumfries and Galloway, having gained so much confidence he now is happy travelling miles out of his comfort zone for the perfect snap.
Liam added: “I love sharing my photos online too, and hearing from people who really like them on Facebook and my website.
“I want to do it full-time for my main job.
“I already spend most of my free time taking photos anyway, so to be able to do it for a living is what I want more than anything.
“My favourite animals are kingfishers, deer and badgers and the best picture I’ve taken is a red deer stag in monochrome. I love it.
“BBC AutumnWatch asked me on to speak in a live interview and of course I wasn’t sure, because even without anxiety issues, speaking in front of thousands of people is nerve-racking for anyone.
“But in the end I really enjoyed it. It’s something I’d never even have dreamed of doing even just a few months before, I’m becoming more confident all the time.
“I still get anxious going to new places and meeting new people, but I’m getting better all the time and yes, it’s all down to photography. It literally has saved me.”