Housebound by a number of life changing health conditions, a talented County Durham teenager has found strength and inspiration in her art – and is now exhibiting her work in a regional gallery.
Hope Simpson from Bishop Auckland lives with chronic fatigue syndrome, ME, hypermobility and Functional Neurological Disorder, a condition which causes her to suffer at least ten seizures every day.
But after turning to her love of photography, the 16-year-old is now using art to explore the impact her health conditions have had on her life.
Her photography, which focusses on self-portraiture, is currently part of the Black & White Exhibition at No.42 in Bishop Auckland, a shop and gallery space run by The Auckland Project.
Hope said: “When I became ill, photography was a lifeline for me, I felt that I had lost a lot of my identity and photography gave me some of that back, it was something to look forward to and enjoy.
“I sometimes struggle to articulate exactly how I feel and I’m able to express myself better through images.”
Hope began to suffer seizures in 2015, just months after being diagnosed with ME, brought on by a bout of glandular fever.
Medics eventually determined that the seizures were caused by Functional Neurological Disorder and she now receives specialist treatment in London four times a year.
For two years, Hope’s worsening conditions have meant that she is unable to attend school, she said: “Being away from everything outside has been really, really hard.
I’m not able to go out with my friends or see a lot of people.”
But having long enjoyed working behind the lens, when she became ill Hope put all of her energy into photography.
Earlier this year, her work was put on display for the first time in the Summer Exhibition at No.42.
And her photography is part of the gallery’s latest exhibition, which will run until Saturday, October 28.
The exhibition is free to view and its monochrome theme has been inspired by the upcoming opening of North East’s new Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland.
Jackie Stonehouse from The Auckland Project, who manages No.42 said: “Hope’s work is truly inspiring and is an example of the talent and creativity we are keen to support and develop.”
Hope, who volunteers with charities for hypermobility and Functional Neurological Disorder, recently celebrated a successful set of GCSE results, including an A* in photography.
She is now fund-raising for a custom-made wheelchair which will offer her renewed independence.
Hope said: “I have an amazing family and friends and I’ve met many people throughout my journey that have constantly inspired me to continue with my passions and endeavours.
“Although I’m still struggling with this, I’m now in a place where I can see things improving.”
The Black & White Exhibition at No.42 is open to view from 10am to 5pm, Wednesday to Saturday, for more information visit: aucklandcastle.org/events/black-and-white-exhibition/ and for more information about Hope’s photography visit: hopecaitlinphotography.co.uk/

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