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Young photographer explores dark feelings of living with chronic illness

Wrapped in bandages Tyler Grace is asking doctors to fix him
One of the images in Tyler Grace's exhibition is titled Fix Me.

Supplied: Tyler Grace

'Fix me' is the title of one of the images included in Tyler Grace's autobiographical exhibition The Chronic Diaries.

"I'm all wrapped up in bandages and hunched over, reaching out for help as if to say fix me because these bandages may be patching things up and helping ease the pain a little but it is not fixing me, it is not curing me and it's a call out to the doctors to find a cure and fix me," Mr Grace said.

The Chronic Diaries

The Chronic Diaries is Mr Grace's first solo exhibition and is currently on display at the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA).

The photographs in the exhibition explore Mr Grace's own pain, frustration and experiences of living with chronic illness.

Mr Grace, who was shortlisted as a finalist in the 2016 Australian Photography Awards and named a finalist for the 2016 National Photography Prize (at MAMA), said he hoped his photographs would support others living with a chronic illness.

"My body is extremely confusing. It doesn't know what it wants to do so it's always twisting and turning and doing all sorts of things that I don't understand that cause me so much grief, both physically and mentally," he said.

Tyler Grace stands in front of one of the images in his exhibition.
Tyler Grace hopes his biographical exhibition will support others living with chronic illness.

ABC Goulburn Murray: Allison Jess

Mr Grace lives with a number of chronic illnesses including fibromyalgia (a chronic muscle and bone condition), Marfan Syndrome (a genetic disorder), chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety. He said he was once told by doctors he would not live past 18 years old.

"I ended up completely blowing away their expectations considering I'm turning 24 in two weeks'."

Photography helping manage chronic illness

Mr Grace, who still experienced "health crashes", said photography provided an escape from his illness.

"It is sometimes very hard to give people a proper understanding of what it is like [chronic illness] but I hope these photos help with that understanding and for people who are chronically ill, I hope it lets them know there are other people who feel the things that they feel or similar things that they feel," he said.

Benjamin Von Wong and Tyler Grace have big smiles after meeting each other for the first time
Tyler Grace (right) said his life changed after his idol and conceptual photographer Benjamin Von Wong paid him a surprise visit in Albury in 2014.

Supplied: Bianca Grace

A life-changing friendship

Mr Grace discovered his love of photography at a friend's wedding in 2011.

"Three different people gave me their phones to take photos and it was then I realised I wanted to save up and buy a camera and I wanted to try this out," he said.

He bought a camera and started doing basic glamour and fashion photography.

"I loved it but there was always something missing, which was the storytelling aspect, but I was too scared to get into that because I thought I wasn't good enough."

That all changed in 2014 when Mr Tyler's idol, Benjamin Von Wong, a conceptual photographer and online personality based in Montreal, paid him a surprise visit.

"I started following him on social media, He had put up a status on his fan page on Facebook asking how he inspired people, so he could use those stories at conferences," Mr Grace said.

"I told him my story that I had basically spent most of my life in hospital and he was the one who inspired me to get up, push through it [illness] and become serious about creating.

Mr Grace said his sister asked Mr Von Wong for a "Happy Birthday video message" for his 21st, but instead Mr Von Wong said "How about I just come over instead and take him on an adventure?"

Mr Grace said that eight-day adventure with Mr Von Wong around Victoria was life-changing.

"During that trip he gave me the confidence and courage to step into the world of storytelling photography," he said.

The Chronic Diaries at MAMA runs until June 18, 2017. It will be on exhibition at the Sydney Fringe Festival in September and some of the images will be used in a group exhibition at the City Arts Factory in Orlando, Florida early next year.

This photograph shows Tyler Grace in bed in pain from his chronic illness
Titled Bedside, this is the first image Tyler Grace took took for his first exhibition.

Supplied: Tyler Grace