GARETH Davies’ whole world came crashing down when he was just 20-years-old.
He was diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition that will leave him totally blind.
For 20 years his eyesight deteriorated slowly. But when he turned 40, his life was turned upside down as retinitis pigmentosa robbed him of his sight.
He is registered blind with just five percent vision in his left eye, and none in his right.
Now, aged 45, Roath resident Gareth’s inspirational response is clear to see.
His stunning photography of Roath Lake and his local surrounding area has developed a social media fanbase.
We sat down recently in his favourite Cardiff café to talk about his most difficult moment, getting back on his feet, and how photography has helped him to start “enjoying the moment” again.
“About five years ago it (his condition) became more severe and started to turn my life upside down,” he said.
“I became very angry about it. It scared me. I had two kids, a wife and a mortgage to pay. I was the bread-winner.
“It ended my marriage. I didn’t become the easiest person to live with and there was a lot of pressure on her to do lots of things that I used to do.
“Little things like taking the kids to school and driving the car all the time. But they added up,” he added.
Gareth’s spiral continued when he turned to alcohol.
He said: “I struggled with drink for a while. The rug of normality had been pulled from under my feet.”
On New Year’s Eve 2018 he came across ‘One Year No Beer’, an initiative to help those who want to drink less, and decided he wanted to make a change.
“I haven’t drank alcohol since, I’m a vegan, really into my fitness, I’ve got my kids, my audio-books, sports, and I’m a million times happier than I have been in a long time,” he said.
A big advocate of self-development and meditation, he puts his transformation down to acceptance.
“Ultimately it comes down to you and accepting that you’ve got a difference, and turning that negative into a positive,” he said.
He laughs as he tells stories of his blunders.
Common symptoms of the condition include difficulty seeing at night, but his response is befitting of his approach to life.
“Once I was on my way back from the pub one evening. I walked into a lake completely oblivious, and the dog ran off,” he recalled.
“I managed to get myself out with a bit of hard work, but it’s a good job I was into my fitness by that point.”
He laughs now, but he believes people going through early stages of blindness particularly need more support.
“There isn’t enough help for people struggling with mental health. Sight loss is a grieving process and a lonely experience,” he said.
“But there’s always someone worse off than us. We have to have a good attitude and approach to life.”
A selection of his photographs have been displayed at The Gate, on Keppoch Street in Roath.
His skills behind the camera have convinced him that photography is “all in the mind, not the eyes”.
He said: “I live right next to Roath Lake and go down there most days. I started taking photos on my iPhone and thought, ‘What can I do with these?’. I didn’t want to put them on because I thought people would take the Mick.”
Far from it; his pictures have gathered much appreciation, but he is not one to boast.
I ask how, as a blind person, he takes such good shots.
“I don’t actually know the answer,” he responded.
“I think a lot of it is about the light. Good photos have a way of coming to me, and in Roath there are so many opportunities for a good one,” he added.
He has gained an early following on Twitter which stands at 151 followers – something Gareth admits is in its infancy.
But followers is not something he concerns himself with too much. He is just happy to be smiling again.
- You can follow him on Twitter @GBlindlad