And it’s quite possible that he never would’ve discovered his talent if he hadn’t picked up a camera as a way to distract himself from the undiagnosed pain he now knows was caused by Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).
Until he was 18, UK-born Adam was just a healthy, sports-mad guy. But when he went off to college, he started experiencing debilitating migraine headaches. The neurologists he saw in London performed every possible test to find out what was wrong, but came up with no answers.
Eventually, Adam’s world contracted to a two-year stint of staying home, lying in the dark with curtains closed and sunglasses on to try to alleviate some of the pain.
He was hypersensitive to light, sound and touch. His friends and family learned to whisper to him because even normal “indoor voices” were unbearable to Adam. In an interview in the The Daily Mail, he explained:
“I couldn’t eat a meal with my family because the sound of the dishes clinking was like a steam train going past.”
And, as is often the case with “invisible illnesses,” Adam heard the gamut from doctors: it was all in his head, he had an inner-ear infection, he must have a brain tumour, etc., etc.
In desperation, he started looking for answers outside the UK, and when he was 21 he flew to Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States to be admitted to the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute.
What started out as a hopeful, short-term-trip ended up being nearly five years of testing and treatment while doctors at the Michigan Institute searched for answers.
That’s when, with earplugs, soundproof headphones, and a beanie hat to muffle noise, Adam began taking photos. What he didn’t know at the time was that his life was about to change to the extent that he’d later be shaking hands with Nelson Mandela, taking shots of Mick Jagger, and becoming an internationally renowned sports photographer.
Here’s how it went down: Adam was having his photos printed at a Michigan camera shop. When he went to pick them up, a clerk there asked if he was a professional photographer. Turns out, she knew someone at the University of Michigan and one of Adam’s photos—of the University’s stadium—had been made into more than a million posters that were sent to all living University of Michigan alumni.
And Adam’s career as a professional photographer was born, despite still being undiagnosed.
Ultimately, it was a bout of food poisoning he had while in South America that nailed his diagnosis down as POTS.
Adam believes that his condition, which causes his hypersensitivity to light and color, may be one secret to his success.
Whatever the reason, Adam is an amazing photographer and invisible illness advocate.