8 images from Oliver Hellowell, photographer with Down syndrome

We see lots of bird-photography books and some stand out more than others. Oliver’s Birds, published earlier this year by ACC Art Books, is one of the more intriguing books in the category that we have seen. Its author is Oliver Hellowell, a 22-year-old nature photographer from the UK who has Down syndrome.

Photographing wildlife since 11 years of age, Oliver has a radiant eye that helps him produce inventive and deeply personal photographs. The young man has garnered quite a following. He has more than 65,000 followers on Facebook and more than 1,200 on Instagram. He has been interviewed on the BBC, and his photos have been exhibited at Heathrow Airport in London alongside those of his friend, nature photographer Ken Jenkins. 

In 2015, Oliver won the UK’s National Diversity Award in the category of National Role Model for Disability. And in 2017, Tennessee Tourism commissioned Oliver to capture the Smoky Mountains National Park in his own style.

His mother, Wendy O’Carroll, explains in the book’s introduction that “Oliver has an innate talent for framing and composition and certainly has his own style, frequently capturing ‘parts’ of the animal or bird he is focussing on rather than seeking to seize an image of the ‘whole’. He also enjoys adopting an unusual angle. He can find some situations and environments overwhelming and a camera allows him to filter out the rest and concentrate on just the piece he’s interested in. He constantly refers to the rear screen, checking after almost every click of the shutter, to see if he has caught exactly the image he intended.”

“You will surely feel that you know Ollie personally after spending time with his photography,” Jenkins writes in a foreword to Oliver’s Birds. “It is such a personal offering that stands alone as a work of art from one who could be described by the skeptic as ‘least likely’. But that limited viewpoint would be in error and would miss the kind, simple, willing, unpretentious offering of an individual that I have come to love for who he is as well as what he does.”

We’re pleased to share this gallery of Oliver’s photos, along with descriptions of them in his own words. 



Great, Blue, and Coal Tits

Great, Blue, and Coal Tits
Picture 8 of 8

Oliver's father says this about a feeder setup in the family's yard: "We use a variety of mossy logs and sticks as props on an old tripod for birds to land on, always placed near bird feeders. With our reflection pool, we have feeders hanging above it permanently to attract the birds, and place suitable logs at the end. We put seeds in and on the logs and drill holes in some upright ones, pressing in peanuts to bring in woodpeckers."

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