Alfie Bowen is a special being, the kind of person that you rarely meet. Just looking at his photos, we notice the deep love he feels for Nature and animals and that is reflected in the expressions he captures.
“People tend to care more for the things they love; I hope to make people fall in love with our natural world, so we can save it before it’s too late. We share planet earth with many other species and it is our responsibility to care for them and ensure that they are thriving for future generations to enjoy. Currently, we are on track to be remembered as the generation that let the elephant slip into extinction — do we really want to leave this earth with that reputation forever hanging over us?”.
Alfie Bowen first took up photography in 2014 following a life-long interest in our natural world. Photography became his escape when faced with over a decade of constant bullying throughout his time in education because of his diagnosis of Autism, and Alfie credits the art form with ultimately saving his life.
He was also fed up with seeing little being done about the plight facing many species across the world and so decided to use his love of photography to raise awareness of this, and increase acceptance and understanding of autism.
He always researches the species he is aiming to photograph before setting foot in the field — he says “it is important to know the behavior of your subject and to be aware of the images that already exist — there is no room for the mundane”.
Hours are invested in every piece to ensure that they are of the highest quality. Bowen’s work has been shown by BBC Earth, and exhibited across the UK and overseas; his first single-man exhibition sold-out within four hours. Alfie’s work hangs in houses across the world, and its value continues to rise.
He is proud to be an ambassador for Clinks Care Farm, Big Blue Ocean Cleanup and Young Bird Photographer Of The Year, and works closely with WWF.
Your autism made you suffer a lot, but there is no doubt that it opened a magical world where photography filled the years of heartbreak. What do you remember from those beginnings?
I am a very visual person, and that means I have a very visual memory….I remember a lot about my childhood and the difficult experiences I lived — I spent several years without friends, and, in a school of over 1,000 pupils, not even 1 said ‘hello’. The constant bullying ultimately led to me trying to take my own life several times, with the first attempt at just 15 years-old. I’ve had to work hard since then to rebuild my trust in humans and my life, and I am always certain that photography saved my life.
I do disagree with your notion that I suffered because of my autism; I actually think I suffered because of other peoples inability to accept my differences.
Your photographs are a hymn to love. You can tell that you love what you do, but how are you able to capture all surroundings so sublime, but difficult to have since it takes many hours to get it?
I always say that life as an artist is a lonely life, in the sense that you spend many hours on your own working on your creations. Autism means that my brain is constantly flittering from one thing to another, which is exhausting, but it allows me
to imagine, to dream, and to plan out images in my mind before I spend hours in the field trying to turn those mental images into physical images.
In many ways my art is my therapy — I invest my heart and soul into every image, and emotion is the centre-piece of all my works.
Behind you, I suppose there is a team that helps you. Tell me about those people who support you in your work.
It took me several years to rebuild my trust in humans, and I am still working on it to this present day, but I am incredibly lucky to have a very supportive network of friends, family and colleagues around me. My family have fought for me for the entirety of my 22 years of life, and I have been lucky in recent years to form some incredible friendships.
Hayley & Natasha have been instrumental in building my confidence and my platform as an artist, and it’s been a pleasure to work with them since 2018. I’m also extremely honoured to have just been signed by Castle Fine Art, the UK’s leading art gallery network consisting of 40+ galleries across the country — I never imagined that I would ever achieve anything like that.
I also have great supporters at several NGOs and at my book publisher.
Many species are in extinction and perhaps not all of us are aware of what this means for our planet. Do you think that your photographs, when they are seen in exhibitions, contribute to this awareness?
I certainly hope that my photographs resonate with everyone that sees them, and that they trigger an emotional response and a desire to make change. We all have the power to play our own part in transforming the state of Planet Earth and in conserving the species we share this planet with; if we don’t do our part we will all suffer in the years to come.
Your exhibitions have been a great success both in the UK and abroad. What courage has Alfie brought to be so successful?
I always get nervous ahead of exhibitions and gallery launches because my work is a piece of me, it’s my language, my way of expressing what I feel, and showing that off to the world can be nerve-racking — am quite insecure about my work.
Do you have a future exhibition project?
It’s an exciting point in my career — I have just signed for the UK’s biggest art gallery network, Castle Fine Art, my debut book launches in Autumn 2021 and we are also working on a couple of projects behind the scenes which haven’t been announced yet. It’s going to be a busy 2021, and we certainly hope to exhibit across the country.
Your great work in defense of animals and Nature have led you to be an Ambassador for several NGOs and to collaborate intensely with them. What role do you play in each of these NGOs and what do they bring to your personal and professional life?
In some ways this is much more important to me than my artwork. When my platform and reach began to grow I set myself a rather lofty goal — to change the world for other autistic children. It’s going to be difficult, but I’m determined to do it, and so far we have received fantastic support from the U.K press, and the public.
When I was growing up there was a distinct lack of autistic role models, I felt very alone, alien almost, and I want to ensure that other autistic children don’t feel the same. I always make an effort to write to them, and send a small signed photo — taking 5 minutes out of my day to write a letter can change an autistic child’s outlook on their life — there is nothing more special.
I also work closely with WWF and am pleased that 50p from every copy of my book sold will go to them to support their essential work in the fight to save our planet.
Alfie, you are a person who have things clear, even though when you are very young. How do you see your professional future?
I am often asked this question, and I consistently find it difficult to answer, simply because I am already achieving things that I never considered possible. Two things are certain — I will continue taking photographs, and continue my work to change the world for autistics.
And the future of our Planet?
I am actually quite optimistic about the future of our planet — I recently spoke at WWF’s online Youth Changemakers Convention, and it was incredible to witness the passion and determination of young people across the world. Youth will change the world, of that I am sure.
What advice would you give to people who are familiar with your extraordinary work as a photographer and as an Ambassador for the first time?
Of course I hope that they enjoy my photography, and would be honored if they wish to hang my work in their house, but my message is always simple — be kind to one another, because kindness can change the world.
I want to thank Alfie Bowen for his time and also Mrs. Hayley Courtney-Smith, director of Da Vinci Group for her introduction and kindness.