Sober Exposure: a photographic exhibition into sober lives

November 2019 | 8 minutes

Tamsyn Warde discovered a passion for photography after she stopped drinking having struggled with alcohol for many years. The photographic portraits in her 'Sober Exposure' exhibition offer a window to the lives of twelve people who have also chosen to go alcohol-free.

Tamsyn's story:

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with alcohol. I drank too much and it affected my life negatively for many years. My personal relationships suffered. I was physically unwell, depressed and began to realise I was putting alcohol before everything else. My university years were particularly challenging.

During those years it didn’t occur to me that I could stop drinking. I had no sober role models and the thought of not drinking sounded really boring. Since I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve discovered a passion for photography. I now have the confidence and creative energy to pursue what really makes me happy. Every aspect of my life is better; I’m an upgraded version of myself.

I created ‘Sober Exposure’ as a result of these experiences. It’s a photographic exhibition to be displayed at Winchester University in conjunction with Alcohol Awareness Week. There are 12 participants who have chosen to live their life sober. Some have never drunk alcohol, and others have. They abstain for a variety of reasons: mental health, addiction, spirituality and physical wellbeing.

It took me quite a few months to find people who were brave and honest enough to talk about their experiences; to be photographed by me and be part of the exhibition.

Below each of my photographic portraits is a narrative written in the subject’s own words. These stories highlight how making the decision not to drink has benefitted their lives. The participants are passionate about life and this comes through in their stories. There are four aims to the exhibition: to provide sober role models; to challenge the idea that life without alcohol is boring; to encourage wider awareness of our relationship with alcohol; and to provide a focal point in universities to discuss issues relating to alcohol.

I don’t want to ‘preach’ to the students at Winchester University. I’m not anti-alcohol but I know first hand the harm it can do. I’d like everyone who visits the exhibition to leave feeling inspired and conscious of their own freedom to make healthy choices about alcohol. Choices that support them mentally, spiritually and physically.

Sophie Tamsyn Wade

My aunt died when I was 11 years old of an alcohol-related illness. Having seen the devastation caused by alcohol within my own family, I’ve made the decision not to drink. I sometimes find it hard to fit in whilst socialising with friends but I’m determined to live my life this way.
Alice Tamsyn Warde

I struggled with my mental health as I was growing up and was prone to anxiety and depression. I started drinking at a young age to deal with these negative feelings. My life began to spiral out of control and my anxiety got worse. I frequently found myself in dangerous situations and decided it was time to stop. I no longer drink and my anxiety has improved so much that I can now lead a full and happy life!
Matt Tamsyn Warde

I began drinking and smoking weed when I was 11 years old. By the time I was 15, I was drinking and smoking drugs regularly and it began to take over my life. I’d often go missing for long periods and my mother wouldn’t know if I was dead or alive. After I stopped drinking and taking drugs my life improved considerably. I now have a job, go to college and am in a stable and happy relationship.
Justyn Tamsyn Warde

I had an accident when I was very young and suffered third degree burns on my upper body. This affected my confidence as I grew up and caused me to have a difficult relationship with my body. Now I do all I can to look after myself physically and mentally. Living a sober life is a big part of this, as respecting my body and making choices which support this are so important to me.

You can find out more by visiting or following @tamsyn_warde on Instagram.

Sober Exposure is being exhibited at Winchester University St. Alphege Building (second floor) from 13 November.