Lisburn man Gary Cowan has been awarded first prize in the Photography category at the 2016 Mervyn Peake Awards.
The awards, now in their 15th year, are organised by the charity Parkinson’s UK, in memory of the late artist and author Mervyn Peake, who lived with Parkinson’s.
The Mervyn Peake Awards are exclusively open to people with Parkinson’s, and invites people to submit creative entries in a range of categories, including photography, books and poetry.
Gary’s photo, titled ‘Early Morning’, depicts a mountain view in the morning.
Disturbed sleep can be one of the symptoms of Parkinson’s, often in a negative way, but on this particular occasion it led to taking a great photo.
“I got up early and took a short drive up to a picnic spot where I could sit and view the mountains. It was misty but this started to lift as the sun climbed into the sky,” Gary explained.
“It was such a beautiful vista. I set up the camera to take a few pictures but my hand started to shake. Still, I got the photo.
“I’ve always had a camera but really only got back in to photographing landscapes after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“Taking good photographs can be a real struggle but it gives me something to focus on and the end result makes it worthwhile,” Gary said.
“To win an award and have my photograph published and on display in aid of Parkinson’s UK is extremely pleasing. I hope I can do more like this.
“I recently made contact with the Lisburn branch. However, I have to admit that fundraising this year has largely been for another charity, Project Trust, as my 18 year old daughter is volunteering for a year to teach orphaned children in Thailand.”
The judge for this year’s Photography category was David Plummer, who said: “This has great composition and control of exposure. Mist is especially effective and using line of track to lead the eye.”
Tania Diggory, Marketing Project Manager for the awards, commented, “For many people, particularly those with Parkinson’s, having a creative outlet can be emotionally fulfilling.
“We heard many stories from entrants this year about how getting back in touch with a talent that had perhaps lain dormant due to the demands of a busy life, or discovering a skill they never knew they had, has really enhanced their mental and emotional well-being.
“People with Parkinson’s have also told us that focussing on an artistic pursuit can make living with the symptoms of Parkinson’s much easier to cope with.”
All of the entries to the awards will be exhibited in London from July 7-10 at gallery@oxo,
Tania added: “I hope this exhibition can help to shift public attitudes about Parkinson’s as well as showcase what can be achieved through creativity and inspiration.”