Local ‘legend’ Wilfred Jenkins has exhibited his photography for the first time and published a collection of fundraising greetings cards featuring his own photos.
The 25-year-old, who is deaf and autistic, has become a bit of a Thanet celebrity through his attendance at isle events, charity fundraising, volunteering and social media posts which include regular sign language videos.
During the past two years he struggled with lockdown and it was difficult for him to understand information about the virus and restrictions resulting in periods of high anxiety. However, he also took part in activities including sing-along sessions with “Singing Hands” and was teaching friends signing every day on Facebook.
As lockdown started to ease he became interested in photography. With the help of Margate photographer Frank Leppard, Wilfred started to learn more about the craft and alongside his passion for nature, animals and local scenery found he had an eye for a good photo.
With his friends Sarah and Vivienne, from Westgate Galleria, he started exploring the possibility of exhibiting some of his photographs.
Westgate Galleria is part of Shoreline Partners which also owns The Eclectic Art Gallery in Margate.
At the beginning of this month Shoreline held a showcase exhibition – Every moment is a fresh beginning – at the Pie Factory in the Old Town, Margate. Two of Wilfred’s photographs were selected and displayed alongside 100 pieces of work by 35 other local artists, makers and creatives.
His prints I Can See You and Pumpkin Fields Forever are now stocked in Westgate Galleria, alongside his greetings cards. The cards feature floral photographs, including Wilfred’s favourites Sunflowers and Poppies, and are available individually or as a pack of six. An image of Patsy, a much-loved cat Wilfred met while volunteering at the Cosy Cat Café in Herne Bay, is also available as a greeting card.
Wilfred has nominated the Follow Your Dreams charity to receive all the profits from the sales of his items.
He said: “Follow Your Dreams have helped me so much because when we went into lockdown it was hard, especially Christmas when I couldn’t go home to be with my family for 2020 when we went into tier 4. It was upsetting but Follow Your Dreams were here to support me and then when I was told I going to move to a different flat in Westgate they helped me and Diane set up the Pay-Pal donation for the furniture in my flat I needed.
“They helped me so much that I wanted to help them as we are doing fundraising for our holiday in Bluestone 2024 with the charity.”
Wilfred’s mum Charlotte visited Thanet for the opening of the Shoreline exhibition. Wilfred said: “I felt very happy and proud. My mum was with me (for the opening) and she was so proud of me too.”
Sarah and Vivienne say they have really enjoyed working with Wilfred on the project and hope lots of people take the opportunity to view his photos.
Westgate Galleria is at 29 Station Road, Westgate-on-Sea CT8 8RB, and Wilfred’s work can also be purchased from its online shop shorelinepartners.co.uk/shop-home/
Follow Your Dreams is a national charity operating in England and Wales that inspires children and young people with learning disabilities to follow their dreams.