A FORMER soldier from the Wirral who took up photography to feel less isolated has had his work included in a gallery of images taken by veterans recovering from physical and psychological wounds.

Help for Heroes’ launched a photography course involving a series of weekly challenges designed to tackle social isolation and inspire a sense of achievement. Combining online tutorials with real-life meet-ups with a professional photographer, an online exhibition called ‘Seven Elements’ was created featuring more than 100 pictures.

This is the latest in a series of hugely successful photography courses organised by the military charity over the past year which more than 60 people signed up to.

Veteran Simon Johnston from Wallasey was interested in pursuing photography when he left the army after serving 12 years with the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Usually, I don’t mix with people outside of my family. I am isolated, so to head to meet the others in the Peak District was a big deal," he said.

"It has been good for my mental health as it’s given me something to concentrate on.

“I did Help for Heroes’ Beginners and Intermediate courses before the Seven Elements one and I am 100 per cent more confident than I was before,” said the 45-year-old.

“The online lessons were great but it was fantastic to meet up in person - we did speak about our military careers, but it was also great to chat to each other about our cameras and I was able to give my spare tripod to someone who needed it.”

Around half of veterans and serving personnel with long-term health conditions would like to take part in sport and exercise, maintain relationships with family and friends or undertake hobbies/creative activities but feel that they can’t as a result of their condition(s).

The amateur snappers were encouraged to get the most out of their digital or phone cameras through the weekly themes of Earth, Light, Water, Air, Spirit, Shadow and Fire to produce photos which explored architecture and nature as well as capturing loved ones through the eye of a lens.

As well as the weekly virtual lessons online, The Seven Elements course involved two face-to-face meet-ups, capturing nature along a disused railway line in the Peak District, in contrast to the historic architecture and the bustle of London.

Help for Heroes has recruited a specialist project case manager, funded by the Armed Forces Covenant for two years, to tackle loneliness and isolation.

Sarah Beale, sports activities and fellowship practitioner at Help for Heroes, said: “The feedback we’ve had is that people have enjoyed learning something tangible and it has given them the motivation to get out of their homes and see things with a different perspective. The online sessions have created a real sense of community.”

Professional photographer Siorna Ashby, who taught the tutorials, added: “Watching them grow in confidence has been inspiring, as has seeing their storytelling and how they’ve developed their own individual photographic styles.

"I’m incredibly proud of them. The community we have built and the support and encouragement they give each other is a powerful reminder that photography can be many things. It can be art; it can offer a sense of achievement and it can reconstruct and maintain a positive identity.”