David Blackett
July 26, 2015
Dawn Campbell
July 26, 2015

Thomas Tolley has lived in a Spectrum Care residential home for several years and, in 2007, enrolled with Aspiration Services’ Kumeu Activity Centre.

Though Thomas came to the centre with limited social skills, he had an abiding fascination with metal and identified photography as a tool with which to explore this fascination. Thomas immediately enrolled in a photography course and set out on a journey that would open new paths and opportunities for him.

After five months of photography classes, Thomas had become adept at taking photos of all types of metal in his immediate environment and had begun to widen the focus. Eventually, Thomas decided to submit one of his pieces to an art auction that was held at a local winery, alongside other artists in the community.

There was little doubt that Thomas was showing significant potential as a photographer, though he was still anxious in busy social situations. This anxiousness posed a barrier, especially as Thomas had become more eager to practice his photography at every opportunity.

Fortunately, Thomas’s tutor recognised the importance of photography in his life and worked to create situations that both fostered Thomas’s creativity and developed his social confidence.

This led to Thomas being commissioned by the local newspaper – the Nor West News – to take photos at a Scouts event, an opportunity that allowed Thomas to interact with people in a social setting while also showcasing his talent.

Photo-finding trips were also suggested by his tutor and, on one such trip with his support worker, Thomas found an old tractor in a paddock by the side of the road. He set to taking the photos of the tractor and was soon met by the farmer, Dennis, who stopped to have a conversation with the budding artist.

Having discovered Thomas’s fascination with metal, Dennis offered to show Thomas around – including a tour of the farm shed, which was full of metal objects.

Thomas was welcomed to come back again to assist Dennis with various projects and the two soon became firm friends. This friendship continues and has brought someone into Thomas life that is able to share his passion for metal and give him an outlet for his creativity.

The encouragement of his support workers, both at home and in the Aspirations Centre, has allowed Thomas to achieve a variety of goals – from developing friendships and visiting new places, to gaining social skills and refining his artistic talents – that have helped to make his life great.