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Alfie Bowen, award-winning photographer, goes back to Centre Academy East Anglia, near Stowmarket, to give talk about new book and autism journey

An award-winning photographer who counts Chris Packham as a friend went back to his old school to give a talk on his journey with autism and newly published book.

Alfie Bowen, of Worlingham, was diagnosed with the condition at 11 and joined the Centre Academy East Anglia, in Brettenham, at 16.

It was there his passion for photography and wildlife was picked up by staff and he flourished.

Kim Salthouse, headteacher, Alfie Bowen, Dr Duncan Rollo.
Kim Salthouse, headteacher, Alfie Bowen, Dr Duncan Rollo.

He has since won awards for his photography and received endorsements from Chris Packham and David Attenborough.

Last Friday, he visited his old school to talk to current students and parents about his new book, Wild World: Nature through an autistic eye, and how embracing having autism has seem him thrive.

When asked how it went, Alfie, now 23, said: “It was really special, and nice to be back,” adding: “It was good to speak to students. There were a lot of new faces.”

Blue Steel. Picture: Alfie Bowen.
Blue Steel. Picture: Alfie Bowen.

During the talk, Alfie spoke about his struggles at mainstream school and difficulty making friends.

“Mainstream high school was like a kick in the teeth for me as it became clear I didn’t fit around the people around me,” he said.

“I got teased for being obsessed with animals. I dreaded class time every day.”

During his time at Centre Academy East Anglia, Alfie became their first head student and also gained six GCSEs. He also sat on the school council.

Incognito. Picture: Alfie Bowen.
Incognito. Picture: Alfie Bowen.

But for current principal and CEO of the school Dr Duncan Rollo, it is Alfie’s efforts since leaving school that have left him most proud.

“One of the great things with Alfie is, inspite of his success, he still devotes a huge amount of his time to autism,” he said.

“The contribution he is making to the understanding of autism is massive. It’s about removing the stigma.”

Incognito. Picture: Alfie Bowen.
Incognito. Picture: Alfie Bowen.

Alfie’s new book has received glowing endorsements, including from David Attenborough and Chris Packham, who he now counts as a friend.

“He was my idol when I was growing up,” he said. “The only person with autism I knew.

“His step-daughter followed me on Instagram and then he spoke to me and now he’s a good friend.”

Fifty pence from each copy of Alfie’s new book will go to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

All the photos inside were taken of animals in Suffolk.

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