A part-time minister is winning praise on high for his photography as it lifts spirits in the post-pandemic world. WORDS IAN LAMMING PHOTOGRAPHY JONNY GIOS

A kingfisher sits on a branch, beak full of fish, while its young opens wide to receive a welcome meal – and all is well with the world.

Sadly, photographer Jonny Gios has seen enough in his 42 years to realise it is not always the reality, but his hobby-turned-career certainly helps him gain perspective and boosts his mental health.

“I know the pandemic has hit many people through bereavement, debt, loss of business, unemployment, isolation and loneliness which is affecting more people than ever with their mental health,” says Jonny, of Kendal.

Jonny Gios

Jonny Gios

“One of the ways I’ve been able to cope is through my photography. I live in a beautiful part of the world and I have taken more pictures than ever. I’ve stretched myself too, moving from landscapes to people and wildlife and after posting them online they are not just helping me but others who can’t or don’t feel ready yet to get out to the places I go to photograph.”

Jonny only picked up photography four years ago having studied it at art college in Manchester over 20 years ago and since then has been wandering the fells and lakes of Cumbria taking pictures on his Sony A7.

The numbers show the level of success as he now sits in the top 500 photographers in the world who post on the photographic website Unsplash, with 120 million views of his images and 526,000 downloads since last year.

Wastwater Sunset, Jonny Gios

Wastwater Sunset, Jonny Gios

He has also been shortlisted for a Lake District competition, the Unsplash International Awards and by Ordnance Survey, while Tatler magazine and billboards around the country have featured his work; his images are also being used by Land Rover in its recent ‘Outspiration’ campaign.

It is an amazing turn in the road from humble beginnings. Originally from Stockport, Jonny left school to work for the Manchester Evening News for three years, starting as a messenger and teaboy before moving into the marketing department and training to be a graphic designer.

“They told me it was going to take seven years to become a designer so I went to art college and still couldn’t break into it as everyone wanted experience and it was very difficult to get,” he recalls.

“So I trained as a youth worker and at 21 moved to Cumbria, leaving all my family and friends to work on the Raffles estate, in Carlisle, at that time a place with a notorious reputation for drugs, just as foot and mouth disease struck the county.”

Jonny Gios

Jonny Gios

A committed Christian, Jonny has worked for a number of churches and charities in different communities around the North West helping to bring about community transformation. He has been a youth and schools worker, detached youth worker, youth pastor, associate pastor, pastor, community worker, district youth officer and community networker. He started working with the Living Well Trust, which used a double decker bus to deliver a host of services, from courses to parent-toddler groups and baby massage.

Jonny only recently finished working for Sandylands Methodist Church, in Kendal, after six years pioneering programmes bridging church and community. Last year the church and community were flooded and they spent most of their time investing in flood recovery efforts.

Butter Crag, Grasmere, Jonny Gios

Butter Crag, Grasmere, Jonny Gios

In 2017 he started a charity called Hope Community seeking to help churches engage with their local communities better. More recently, he helped found Gateway Church, as well as being a North of England advisor for the Cinnamon Network which also help churches engage with local communities.

“I love community engagement and people and want to use my skills as a freelance graphic designer and photographer to create eye catching imagery,” says Jonny, who is married to Pamela and has two children.

As a youth and community worker and former police community support officer he has experienced the challenges of humanity as well as foot and mouth, flood recovery and now pandemic.

KIngfisher, Jonny Gios

KIngfisher, Jonny Gios

“You see a society with a wider lens with the experience in the police. Yes, you know that there are challenges, but it has given me a new perspective and appreciation of what our communities are actually facing and the struggles many face. After Storm Desmond I experienced PTSD which worked itself out in physical ways that were a shock to the system,” he recalls.

“But I believe that if you help others then you get to help yourself. I can’t function if I’m not right myself and getting out in the Lakes, taking photos, helps me and the people who view my work. I got myself a telephoto lens to catch a kingfisher and hopefully all the pictures I take will give people the confidence to get back out there and enjoy life."