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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March 2005, 17:59 GMT
A schizophrenic's view of Everest
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website disability affairs correspondent

Stuart Baker Brown trekked to Everest Base Camp to draw attention to the positive achievements of people with mental illness. He recently opened an exhibition of his photographs in Dorset.

Photo of Stuart Baker Brown in front of one of his photos

"I find it hard to see myself as an artist, rather than as someone who just has schizophrenia," Mr Baker Brown told the BBC News website.

"I was told I would probably never work again - that my whole life would just be battling with my illness."

His trip to the Himalayas, in November 2003, was funded by an award from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

Before he embarked upon this epic adventure, Mr Baker Brown bought himself a good quality digital camera, then taught himself to use it as he went along.

In spite of a complete lack of experience in photography, the results demonstrate a sharp eye for what makes a good picture.

Some of his photographs are the result of experimenting with the camera's features, and he achieves dramatic effect using coloured filters.

My mental illness started out as a disability but now it's working for me rather than against me
Stuart Baker Brown

His exhibition - at the Faith House gallery in Holton Lee, Dorset - includes mountain landscapes and portraits of the people he met on his way, several that reflect his growing fascination with Buddhism.

"Buddhists are very accepting of everything and everyone - they didn't seem to judge me because of my condition," he said.

"Because of this I found great peace and serenity up in the mountains."

Baker Brown was first diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1996, but started to experience symptoms five years earlier.

Although he has not been in paid work for several years, he wants to use travel and photography to inspire others with mental health problems.

He believes that schizophrenia is too often associated with violence, whereas in reality the majority of those with the condition live their life with love and understanding.

"My mental illness started out as a disability but now it's working for me rather than against me," he said.

Mr Baker Brown became especially close to his Sherpa guide, Nuru, during the five week, 200 mile trek.

"Having spent so much time with me, he's now a trusted friend."

He and Nuru are now planning their next trip - this time to the summit of Everest - later this year.

View of a Schizophrenic is at the Faith House gallery at Holton Lee until April 5.

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