ANDREW Mason had a comfortable life living in London and working in the public sector for the fire brigade.

But something was not right. He was not happy.

The former Bridgewater High student’s real passion was for photography but taking pictures was often sidelined due to his 9-to-5. That was until Andrew summoned up the courage to host his first ‘life changing’ exhibition around eight years ago.

He said: “I had a really normal job but I would go out at lunchtime with my camera.

“That was like my release – wandering around London looking for certain scenes, shafts of light, shadows and patterns that I liked.

“That was what would get me through the working day.”

Knutsford Guardian:

Andrew Mason

That turned into nine black and white photos taken around the South Bank, Elephant and Castle, London Bridge and Waterloo that were displayed at a small gallery in Greenwich.

Andrew, who grew up in Stockton Heath and Walton, added: “I didn’t shoot those photos with the intention of an exhibition but when they developed into something, I thought it was a great opportunity.”

The 45-year-old enjoyed it so much that he decided to ditch ‘mundane’ middle-management in favour of launching his own career behind the lens.

He said: “If you do photography, you get into this world you really love. You love your camera and taking pictures.

“But before Instagram and social media it was hard to get anyone to see your photos beyond your circle of friends. So the experience of having your pictures up on the wall of a gallery for the first time – and seeing people in front of them pointing and saying things about them – is a unique kind of feeling.

“You feel pride and satisfaction. When you can see your series of work all hung together it somehow means more.

Andrew then seized a chance to take redundancy to set up his photography school – 36exp – build his portfolio as a portrait photographer and lay down the groundwork for his own show.

Since then he’s had no regrets.

Andrew added: “It’s that kind of feeling where you think: ‘Is this all that life’s about?’ I was doing a 9-to-5 job that I didn’t find all that fulfilling. It’s good for people to have a creative outlet or hobby or pastime for their mental health and general wellbeing.

“You might get home from work and feel you’ve not achieved anything. But if you’ve got another project on the go and see something come to life at the end of it that’s a boost. It’s good for self-esteem, confidence and motivation.”

Knutsford Guardian:

One of Andrew's photos

What was once Andrew’s hobby is now his full time job – the focus of which is The London Photo Show.

He took a took a leap of faith by booking a small gallery off Brick Lane and filled it with the work of 14 exhibitors in 2016.

Since then it has grown in size and reputation – with exhibitors coming from as far as the US and China – and on October 17 it is back for its fourth year at Oxo Tower Wharf.

It gives Andrew a buzz that he is potentially helping people that are just starting out like he was.

Andrew, whose mum Cynthia still lives in Stockton Heath, said: “We had one woman who’s a retired art dealer from Paris. She said: ‘Now I can say I’m a photographer’.

“That gives me a buzz that I’m helping to provide a platform for people who have a passion like mine. Most of them have another job – the exhibitors have a huge variety of backgrounds and it’s been great to bring them all together.

“It also drives people to go and do other things – work on a project or push themselves a bit further.

“When I’ve had two hard days with a big team preparing for the show and I see everyone coming in and admiring the work it’s a really good moment for me.”