Being diagnosed with a mental-health condition well into his 30s was a relief for Mark Charlesworth as it helped explain some of the difficulties that he had experienced in the past.
Now living in north Northumberland and having ‘found his niche’ in his fledgling business as a photographer, the 36-year-old told the Gazette that he now feels very settled in life.
Mark, who has epilepsy, was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) in 2012 and doctors also believe he experienced symptons of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he was attacked in Bradford in 2001.
The father-of-one, who lives with wife Tracy and son Thomas, eight, in Whittle, near Rothbury, is now pushing on with his new business, Seven Daisies Photography, and working for himself is suiting him down to the ground.
Mark first started testing the market for his portrait business a couple of years ago without using advertising and trying to generate clients by word-of-mouth. The financial climate meant that he pulled back for a time, starting an Open University degree, which is now on hold, but his website went live in December and he started posting flyers through letterboxes last month. Mark’s father-in-law, who used to take pictures on the bodybuilding circuit, first got him into photography, but it became more and more attractive a proposition as a business.
“From about 2000, I have never really been at home in an office so I need to be creative and I need to run my own business,” he said.
ADHD is a group of behavioural symptoms that include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, while Mark also struggles with his working memory and worries about making sure everything is exactly right.
“I’m on the lighter end of the spectrum, in the first third,” he explained. “Whatever I’m doing, I will understand, but I get quite pedantic and I question things.”
Previous jobs, in roles such as working in call centres for insurance firms, saw Mark writing up extremely detailed notes and constantly proof-reading them.
“With the photos, I can look at them and say, ‘yes, it’s ready to go to the customer’, although I’m never happy with any image,” he said.
The ADHD diagnosis came about only when a friend who works with children with that and other behavioural conditions told Mark that he had it.
“We always knew there was something there, but thought it would have been picked up by my 30s,” he said. “It helps explain it to others and we can put a label on it. We can explain; that’s why it takes me longer.
“There’s better understanding out there now in the world of mental health so there’s more patience.”
As the photos here suggest, Mark prefers doing portraits of children, although is happy to do pictures of adults too.
“I’m a bit childlike myself so I feel more comfortable,” he said. “Children don’t have any hang-ups, they are not trying to pout or pose, which suits my style of photography better. I have found my niche, it’s where I feel happiest, doing the photography.”
The family also feels comfortable living in Northumberland, where they have been since 2004.Mark is from Yorkshire originally although his dad grew up in Wallsend and they often came up to visit the North East and went for days out at places like Kielder and Cragside, where Mark and Tracy were married in 2003.
“I have always liked Northumberland, it kind of hooks you,” he said. “You’re not far from the coast, there’s the Cheviots, there’s lots of history and culture.
“I miss some of the people from home, but I don’t miss the area.”