Making the ordinary extraordinary

14 June 2018

By Giovanni Coppola

Giovanni Coppola

I first got into photography when I was at school. I’m dyslexic and when others were applying for university, I felt a bit unsure about what to do.

I applied to study a general arts course in London but once that was finished, I was at a loss again as to what to do next.

I tried to get into acting for a while, but found my heart really lay in photography. After a few good opportunities came my way, I decided to make it my focus.

Now everything is digital 

When I first started out, photography was a very different world to what it is now. I used an analogue camera and developed the photos myself. Now everything is digital, which allows a lot more freedom.

I began to lose my sight as an adult. It was a shock at first, but I thought I can either give up or get on with it. I decided to get on with it. 

Adapt the way I work

I’ve had to adapt the way I work to suit my vision, which is almost like a tunnel, gradually getting narrower.

I can only see straight ahead and focus on one thing at a time — the more light the better.

This is an advantage, because most people have to think about the way they frame their photos and decide where to focus, but because of my vision I immediately cut out the irrelevant areas and focus on what I want to. 

Making the ordinary extraordinary

I now work exclusively on images of reflections. I’m fascinated by light, because it is really the root to all life.

For me, reflections are a beautiful way to show how colour, shapes and light relate to each other. I like to think my photos are about making the ordinary extraordinary.

I often notice things I didn’t notice before

Working as a photographer with a visual impairment is certainly harder, but it is also more interesting.

When I upload my photos to a computer, for example, I often notice things I didn’t notice before.

I make a point of not editing the images at this point, because I enjoy the different features which have occurred without me realising. 

Follow your passions

My advice to other disabled people considering photography is: go for it! It’s important to follow your passions.

Don’t be afraid to compete with non-disabled photographers either. Crucially, don’t let your disability become more important than your photography.

Top tips

My top five tips for anyone getting into photography:

  • Take a walk — I often find inspiration just be walking, stumbling across beautiful moments in nature and then revisiting them.
  • Be bold enough to try new things — often people find portrait photography difficult for example, but people can add new dimensions to your images and it doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated.
  • You don’t have to do classes to be a photographer — too many lessons can restrict creativity. Pick up a camera and go for it!
  • Don’t be too formulaic — some of the most creative images can occur impulsively.
  • Look to other photographers for inspiration — Sebastiao Selgado, a Brazilian photographer, has been a huge source of inspiration to me.

The National Garden Scheme’s photography competition is open until 28th August. Get inspired and give it a go!

Giovanni Coppola is an artist and photographer, based in London. He was diagnosed with Retinis Pigmentosa in 2000.


Hi Giovanni - I use my camera a lot for my marine survey work and found your tips to be very interesting. Bravo.

Hi Johnny,
Malcolm Bray writing. Found your blog by chance. So glad to hear that Photography is still a big part of your life despite your sight handicap.
I am retiring from teaching at St David’s at Christmas. You were one of my first successes with photography at the school.
Very proud of what you at doing.
Please keep it up,
All my best,
Mr Bray ( ha ha......Malcolm).

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