We caught up with photographer Sam Howat about his road to diagnosis and his life since.

Sam Howat, photographer

Hi Sam, can you tell us how you got started?

At 15 my father arranged for me to sail with The Ocean Youth Club and I took my first maritime photos by climbing the 70 foot mast. I went to sea full-time at 17 as a Deck Officer Cadet in the Merchant Navy. At 19 I circumnavigated the Panama Canal, Pacific Islands and Suez Canal. Later I sailed to Antarctica with The British Antarctic Survey before retraining to be a TV cameraperson.

How did you get into photography and how has it changed you?

I first picked up my grandfather’s Kodak Box Brownie when I was about six or seven and began taking black and white photographs. After returning from Antarctica, where I had began shooting on 35mm transparencies, I set my heart on becoming a natural history cameraman but still photography continues to be my passion. It gives me something to look forward to and I feel very fortunate to still have the drive for it.

What is your personal experience of bipolar?

I was wrongly diagnosed for 12 years with clinical suicidal depression. My father continuously told my doctors that it wasn't just depression, as he had witnessed my behaviour and chaotic lifestyle, before I finally got a diagnosis of Bipolar II.

How do you manage your bipolar?

I stay on the right medication. It took me a long time to accept because of the stigma around mental health, but in my opinion it works for me and my life is so much better for it. I have to check myself from time to time to make sure I'm getting enough rest, exercise and not racing around like the proverbial chicken.

What's next for you?

I have just been sifting through about 6,000 images from all over the world for my first photographic exhibition. It's taking a lot of time and effort, but it has been quite a cathartic process and I hope that it will inspire and give some hope to others who are suffering or who have suffered. Next year I'm planning to write a book of my experiences,adventures with the illness, and how experiences with nature can help to heal us.