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Turning points in photographer's own journey

Members of the Dawlish & Teignmouth Camera Club sat enthralled in their armchairs as

Plymouth-based guest speaker, Tommy Hatwell, delivered his Zoom presentation on travel


His Around the World and Back Again talk was full of exciting and exotic images from his early days as a travel photographer to his compelling portraiture work and charity projects in Uganda. As a carefree young man, he worked in a variety of jobs to save money to fund his travels, but along the way there were significant turning points that led him to where he is today.

From his adrenaline-fuelled time as a white-water rafting instructor and videographer, to his intrepid travels throughout Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India and Asia, Tommy has always connected with the people - his choice of a small Canon G1X camera was not seen as

professional and therefore people relaxed and acted naturally. His obvious love of these

human interactions was neatly summed up with his phrase ‘people are the pictures of the


Tommy explained the first of his turning points happened in New Zealand when he captured a once-in-a-lifetime photograph of a killer whale hunting a pod of false killer whales. It was published in the New Zealand Geographic magazine and this gave him the idea of going into commercial photography. He then started to create images with a commercial aspect in mind and also enrolled on a Commercial Photography degree course at Plymouth Arts College. However, for his final project he felt uninspired with what he could do locally, so with a quiet determination, he found a Non-Government Organisation in Africa called SOUL (Supporting Opportunities for Ugandans to Learn) that he could work for and so it proved another turning point for Tommy – this time into humanitarian photography.

Tommy’s strong connection with Africa began in 2008 and he has returned many times,

building on the friendships he made in the early days. One heart-warming example was

David from Jinja, Uganda who Tommy met in 2008 and then again in 2017. David was also

interested in photography and he has been a vital part of Tommy’s photography work in

Africa, assisting with lighting and videoing, as well as helping with the logistics, locations and translations. David now runs the Jinja Photography Experience walks to share this amazing part of the world with visitors who like to explore with their cameras and see a very local and personal side to town and village life.

Think People Think Story is an organisation Tommy has set up to deliver all of his

humanitarian projects. He works with a small team to devise and deliver life-changing

projects and photography experiences in Uganda. Through creative community

collaborations, they share the power of photography to educate, motivate, mobilise and

support the mental and physical wellness of human beings. To find out more about the

Think People Think Story projects, or to buy products which will support them visit

The power of the single image to tell a story was recognised when Tommy’s Night School

image about a solar powered classroom in Uganda was selected for the Taylor Wessing

Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 and displayed at the National Portrait Gallery.

A huge vote of thanks was given to Tommy for an exciting and inspirational evening, and as

one member commented, ‘a life we’d all liked to have lived’.

If you are interested in joining the Camera Club, which meets on Wednesday evenings on

Zoom (until further notice), for the chance of hearing more remarkable guest speakers visit

Night School © Tommy Hatwell
Night School © Tommy Hatwell

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