New Mills photographer who twice faced losing her sight sets up camera club

A New Mills woman who has twice lost her sight has now set up a community photography group to share her passion for visual art with others.

Saturday, 19th February 2022, 3:23 pm
Becky Alexis-Martin is setting up a photography club
Becky Alexis-Martin is setting up a photography club

Becky Alexis-Martin was born with vision problems and needed surgery when she was just a year old and wore patches until she was eight years old.

Treasuring now having full vision Becky became an artist and is a visual ethnography lecturer, which means she document people's lives and studies the visual image, at Manchester Metropolitan University and travels all around the world taking pictures.

In January 2021 while driving, Becky started to lose her sight and could not see her hand in front of her face or her reflection in the mirror.

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Becky Alexis-Martin

She had suffered a minor cerebral event, similar to a mini stroke, where a blood clot affected her occipital lobe meaning she couldn’t see.

She lost her vision for around a month and doctors told her there was a 75 per cent chance she would never see again. But with all her livelihood depending on her vision she taught herself how to see again and how to be an artist once more.

Now she is setting up a photography club setting up a photography club called the Free Peaks Photographers and wants to pass on her knowledge to others.

She said: “It has been a whirlwind year. If you would have told me a year ago I’d have full vision back and be leading a photography course I would never have believed you.”

The 36-year-old said: “My world had gone from taking pictures of abandoned nuclear bunkers and travelling to places like Fiji and Kiritimati to lying in a hospital bed unable to see.

"I was told that there was a very high chance I’d never get my sight back, which meant there was a small chance I would so I pushed myself everyday to learn how to see, how to draw and how to understand distances again.”

The blood clot had been caused by an undiagnosed rare genetic heart condition but once she was out of hospital, Becky set herself challenges every day to see what she could see.

“I’m a very stubborn person, I’m also a lecturer so I just became my own teacher,” she said.

"Once my vision started to come back even just a little bit I started drawing.

"Looking back those pictures aren’t any good but it was a start and every day I drew a picture of an olive oil bottle on my kitchen worktop just to monitor my progress.

"If I looked down at my hands I couldn’t see any depth and they looked tiny so I needed to work out how to see and understand distances again.”

Becky taught herself to juggle and despite her loss of vision she could still see some sunshine. Holding on to a memory of her favourite spots around the Peak District, she asked her partner to take her out.

"I knew there were nice views, I just couldn’t see or focus on them or even make out the horizon but I could feel the sun on my face and thought there must have been something worth capturing so I concentrated on holding my camera steady and hoping for the best.”

Now one year on, Becky says she is back to full vision and having nearly lost her sight twice, she does not want to take it for granted ever again.

"When my sight was back to normal as a child I grew up around my granddad who is a photographer so I was submerged in art from a young age.

"I made all things visual my career so I was a bit lost at one point as everything I had known had gone but I’m so lucky to be where I am today.

She wants to share her journey with the Stroke Association as she says there isn’t much support for people whose vision has been lost through a stroke at an early age.

"I’d like to put on an exhibition showing people what I went through and including all of my art and photography when I first started getting my sight back.

"The staff at the Salford Royal were amazing but I do think more needs to be done to help others like me who have to lost their sight.

"My consultant said it is remarkable I'm back to full vision but I feel for those who aren’t as lucky as me.”

Becky, who also has a doctorate, is an active member of a New Mills community Facebook page and had been offering people photography tips for a while when she realised there was an actual need and desire for people to learn more about taking good pictures.

She said: “Along with Andrea Duffy, my wonderful right hand woman, we have set up The Free Peaks Photography Club.

"Photography courses seem to be so expensive and we wanted to make it much more accessible and something everyone can enjoy.

"We are planning monthly outdoor walks and want to have talks and discussion groups where we can all learn from other photographers.”

The newly formed group is being supported by the Shrub Club in New Mills and the Wiseheart and Wild which has agreed to give over some space in the gallery for a mini exhibition of the new camera club’s work.

Becky said: “It doesn’t matter if you only take pictures on your phone, or you have a more fancier camera, if you have an interest in photography and would like to meet some other like minded people we’d love you to come along."

The group is having its first meet and greet session on March 7 with an online catch-up. Anyone who would like to join can find The Free Peaks Photography group on Facebook.

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