Amateur photographer inspired by autistic son

Annie Elliott's photo has been shortlisted for National Autistic Society's friendship-themed photography competition
Annie Elliott's photo has been shortlisted for National Autistic Society's friendship-themed photography competition

AN AMATEUR photographer is delighted that her photo has been shortlisted for a national award.

Annie Elliott, 36, of Broadlands Avenue, Bourne, has made it into the final 12 of The National Autistic Society’s friendship-themed photography competition for its 50th anniversary.

Her entry, titled “James and Mr Elephant”, beat 500 competitors in a public vote to make the list in which the winner will be announced on Friday at the Autism Show in the ExCel Centre in London.

The photo is of Annie’s son, three-year-old James, who was diagnosed with autism just before his second birthday, and his toy best friend Mr Elephant at a deserted Skegness beach in March.

Since James was diagnosed, Annie has set up her own charity Galaxy of Stars, to help and support people with additional needs and their families.

Annie said: “This is a photo that encapsulates one of the most extraordinary friendships I have ever seen. James has trouble relating to the world around him and can be quite fearful of unfamiliar places.

“That’s why it was such a huge surprise when we were out one day shopping and he just lunged out to grab Mr Elephant from the shelf. Ever since that day, they have been inseparable.

“The day this photo was taken was the first time we had ever managed to take James to the beach, in the past he’d just been too nervous.

“But this time, we had Mr Elephant on our side.

“We spent a whole two hours in the sun and it was just the most joyous family day.

“Now when I look back at this photo, I see nothing but contentment between two best friends.”

The photo was voted for by more than 16,000 people on the society’s website, as she made it into the final 12 of the competition. Annie was delighted with the support shown by everyone.

She said: “It’s was amazing to get that many votes and I was completely overwhelmed.

“There were people voting from everywhere and the enthusiasm shown was fantastic.”

The competition will be judged by John Swannell, a specially commissioned photographer of the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

John said: “This photo speaks of the real need to find ways to help a person with autism find security. For this young boy Mr Elephant helps him to do things that would otherwise be close to impossible.”