When Neil Pilling’s consultant told him that he must take more exercise and advised him to get out and walk daily, no-one could have anticipated just what this would lead to.  In fact, if someone had told Neil two years ago that he would be holding his very first photographic exhibition this month he would probably have laughed at the idea.

Neil, who suffers from the painful condition hip dysplasia, had previously always been active and would have described himself as a man who enjoyed traditional male pursuits, such as fishing and definitely not an ‘arty type’.  But two years ago all this changed.  Due to the pain he was suffering, he had to give up work, his beloved fishing and could no longer get out and about.  But, acting on his doctor’s advice, Neil began to go for daily walks.  It was during these walks that he began to notice some of the beautiful scenery along our splendid coastline.  With no previous  interest in photography, Neil started to take photos of some of the beautiful sunsets and artworks on Cleveleys Beach.  But forget images of a photographer with lots of cameras, long lenses etc, because  all of Neil’s stunning  images were captured simply by using his smartphone.  I’m not talking of a quick snap of a pebble either,  Neil’s images are beautiful works of art, which have developed with time and patience – in some instances a lot of patience – the one of the wave crashing onto a breakwater took over an hour to perfect!  And by the way, hands up those who can see the ‘water’ man at the end of the breakwater?  I spotted it straight away but Neil said that he can’t actually see it himself.

Initially his photographs were seen by his partner, parents and friends, but despite their assurances that he was a really talented photographer, Neil didn’t think they were anything particularly special until the night he shared one of them to a local chat group on Facebook.  He switched his phone on the next morning and wondered why he had over 300 notifications, it turned out they were all ‘likes’ from members who had seen his image on the page.  Neil then realised that his family weren’t just being nice when they praised his work, but that all these people appreciated his talent too.

Due to his limited mobility and problems with bending, Neil found that capturing some images was difficult, if not impossible, until his friend suggested getting a ‘selfie stick’.  Neil decided to give this a try and now gets through around one a month – well worth any outlay when you see the enhanced images of pebbles and shells on the beach.  Since then his hobby went from strength to strength until it reached the stage where a friend advised him to take a look at the space in The Kiln House Gallery, Thornton, with a view to exhibiting his work.

And so, from being a hobby to help him to take the exercise he needed, Neil’s photographic skills have grown and his first exhibition opened on 2 September, it has proved to be extremely popular and is hopefully the first of many.  The exhibition brings together work taken over the past few months and shows not just his confidence in composition and subject matter, but also his keen sense of enquiry, creativity and professionalism.

Photography Exhibition by Neil Pilling is at The Kiln House Gallery at Marsh Mill, Thornton Cleveleys, FY5 4JZ until Sunday 1 October from 10.30am – 4.30pm. Don’t miss out on seeing the show in its final weekend.

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