‘I had lost all trust in humans’: Photographer reveals lasting effects of bullying

Alfie Bowen, pictured right with singer-songwriter and actor Lee Ryan. Picture: Contributed by Alfie

Alfie Bowen, pictured right with singer-songwriter and actor Lee Ryan. Picture: Contributed by Alfie Bown - Credit: Archant

An autistic photographer who attempted to take his life five times has revealed his experience with bullying and how art saved his life.

Candy, captured by Alfie Bowen. Picture: Contribed by Alfie Bowen

Candy, captured by Alfie Bowen. Picture: Contribed by Alfie Bowen - Credit: Archant

Alfie Bowen, from Beccles, always "felt like the odd one out at school" and didn't find common ground talking about cars, motorbikes or TV soaps.

But he has now found success by embracing his artistic talent, becoming a globally-renowned photographer.

"I first noticed how different I was to my peers when I moved to mainstream high school - everyone either ignored me or called me names.

"I had food thrown at me across the canteen, was told I would be never be anything or anyone, and that I would probably never pass a GCSE," the 21-year-old said.

The Light and the Stripes, captured by Alfie Bowen. Picture: Alfie Bowen

The Light and the Stripes, captured by Alfie Bowen. Picture: Alfie Bowen - Credit: Archant


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Not knowing how to cope with the relentless bullying, the 15-year-old tried to take his life for the first time.

"After refusing to leave my bedroom for over a week, and went on to attempt it a further four times," he said.

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Following the attempts, his mother made the decision to take legal action and get him a placed at a private special education school, he later joined Centre Academy East Anglia (CAEA).

"I refused to speak to anyone for the first year at CAEA - I had lost all trust in humans after the many years of bullying I had previously experienced in education," he said.

By the time he graduated in 2018, he had passed six GCSE exams and A-level equivalents at grade B-A. He then was awarded unconditional acceptance to five universities.

However, he was forced to leave university three weeks in after being bullied so severely he spiralled into psychosis, at that point he was hit by a car.

"I had worked so hard to get to university and the opportunity was taken away by society's ignorance," he said.

Mr Bowen is releasing a book at the end of the year featuring 200 of his photographs, with his work focusing on wildlife and the natural world.

"I have always preferred animals compared with humans; they cannot bully, they cannot laugh and they always put a smile on my face.

"I am so thankful that the many suicide attempts were unsuccessful," he said.

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