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Robert Nixon Betts

What influences a man to take pictures?

Words: Paul Chapman

Images: Robert Nixon Betts

Robert Nixon Betts’ photos have been a regular feature of the S40 Local gardening pages for quite some time. He started sending photos to me out of the blue and we’ve built up a routine and exchanged short emails, so I recently suggested we meet up so I could find out a little bit more about him.

Little did I know, that by using his photos S40 Local had also been helping Robert to build his confidence and find an outlet that’s been so important to him.

Robert lives in Walton - you wouldn’t know to look at him, but he struggles with self-confidence and many of the day-to-day interactions most of us take for granted.

Robert has been sharing photos he takes with me for some time and we regularly feature his

pictures of flowers, plants or the insects that are attracted to the flowers on our garden tips page, they are a timely reminder of what’s happening outside.

I met Robert for a coffee at St Thomas’ and he explained, “I came to Chesterfield from Grimsby as a young lad and have always suffered with my self-confidence. I tend to shy away and back off from any situation I’m not comfortable with, it can lead to me being extremely nervous.”

It transpired that meeting with me today at St Thomas’ had taken some doing. “Things people have no problem with, meeting a new contact or person or going somewhere for the first time, I find extremely stressful”, he added.

In the past he’s avoided such things, but just recently he’s started putting himself into uncomfortable situations he would have previously avoided. Each situation is about overcoming his worries and learning to cope with more and more of life’s everyday tasks.

Robert simply likes to take photos. “It’s part of my coping mechanism, it removes some of the stress, but I do also find it stressful at the same time. Remembering the functions of the camera is difficult, I often forget how to do certain things” he explains. “I try to have the camera in manual mode and not let it make the decisions for me. This approach works OK 90% of the time but I do drop back to auto mode when needed”, perhaps a perfect illustration of the simple becoming difficult for him.

However, Robert went onto explain how his use of the camera has given him a way to escape. “Through sending the photos to S40 Local, it’s resulted in my joining Sheffield Photographic Society. They’ve been amazing, it’s been great to be welcomed by the group and it’s doing wonders for my confidence”, Robert smiles, happily.

Attending the group involves a bus ride out to Sheffield, Robert gets himself there and back and feels like one of the group. He points out that the members have been so supportive, and it’s created an environment he feels comfortable and secure in. “I wouldn’t have even thought about doing something like this a couple of years ago”, he adds.

I asked what is it about photography he really likes? “I just enjoy the experience, I don’t really have a favourite picture, it’s all about the process of taking the photograph.”

Robert has recently bought a wide-angle lens for his main camera and will be experimenting with it, all part of the learning process. He recently did a part-time photography course at Chesterfield College and, although he enjoyed the course, he wasn’t happy with the darkroom experience.

To finish off our chat I asked about his inspirations? “Villager Jim and I really enjoy taking photos around Whitby”, Robert replied. “I’d love to produce some products... pictures, a range of cards, I do give my pictures to friends and neighbours, and people are appreciative”.

Thanks to Robert for sending in the pictures each edition and who knows, I might be letting you know about his range of cards.


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