The world through Oliver’s lens

A swan preening by Oliver Hellowell

A swan preening by Oliver Hellowell - Credit: Oliver Hellowell

On the wall in the hallway of Oliver Hellowell’s home in Westonzoyland there is a world map and it is covered with coloured dots. The dots indicate the many places around the globe where Oliver’s Facebook followers live – the thousands of people who have been inspired by this young man’s achievements.

Oliver in action

Oliver in action - Credit: Mike O'Carroll

When Oliver was born in July 1996 he was diagnosed with Down Syndrome and at three months old he underwent open heart surgery. Oliver faced additional difficulties as well as Down Syndrome but thanks to his determination and his mother’s optimism and encouragement, Oliver emerged triumphant.

Proving the pessimistic predictions by professionals wrong, this very active youngster, who loves football, is now making a name for himself as a photographer.

His pictures are admired by over 10,500 followers from across the world including Japan, New Zealand, Russia and Canada. They all love to see the world through this 18-year-old’s eyes.

His mother Wendy explains how she set up his Facebook page last June. “I have to say I never for a minute envisaged how successful it was going to be. It absolutely took off.

“Lots of his Facebook followers are parents of children with Down Syndrome and when they see how amazing Oliver is it makes them feel much more positive and encouraged.”

Wendy, who also has a daughter, had been a single parent for some years when professional photographer Mike O’Carroll came into their lives. When Oliver was about ten years old he decided he wanted to take pictures like his step father Mike. He used Mike’s Canon 5D and has been taking photos with it ever since.

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Oliver has built up an incredible portfolio of stunning images – many taken in his home county of Somerset and on fishing trips with Mike.

“I love fishing. We catch carp mostly; it’s my favourite,” Oliver tells me as we look through some of his photographs.

His favourite subjects include birds and water. He loves taking close ups of splashes and the results are images which are different and fascinating.

Often he will notice detail in things most of us would ignore and he sits happily amongst the geese and swans to get some incredible close ups.

He likes catching the robins on camera when they come near.

“It’s quite cool to see it,” says Oliver.

His mum says photography has given him confidence and self esteem. “Photography has become a way to express himself, record what he sees and how he sees it,” explains Wendy, who is Chief Executive of Ups and Downs Southwest, a Down Syndrome support organisation based in Somerset.

Mike says Oliver has an eye for a picture and he has left him to develop that rather than try to influence it.

“You have to be very careful not to interfere. Very quickly after I showed him how to use the camera I discovered that the best thing to do was to leave him to find what it is he is trying to take a picture of.”

Oliver will often take pictures from the ground looking up, producing some unusual and creative photographs. As Oliver will tell you, when it comes to taking a great picture it’s all about the framing and composition.

*Oliver’s annual exhibition takes place on 15 and 16 November at The Old School, School Road, Westonzoyland, TA7 0LN. Open 10am-4pm.

See more of Oliver’s images at and follow him on facebook at