At 15, Blake woke with severe memory loss caused by an acute deterioration in his mental health. He struggled to recognise faces, remember names or events, and began carrying a camera with him to capture images to aid his memory.
Soon Blake realised that his camera skills had earning potential as well as health benefits, and he set up a side venture as a photographer, but his fledgling enterprise did not bring in enough money to make a living.
Blake’s retail job was subsidising his photography venture, but with support from the He Kākano seed fund Blake, now 19, has built up his business to the point where he has been able to quit his job and become a full-time photographer.
The financial support has enabled Blake to upgrade his camera and editing software and a mentor from Forsyth Barr focuses on building his finance skills.
However, Blake identifies the programme’s networking support as being the biggest boost to his business - and confidence – as he has gained new connections and clients.
“He Kākano gave me the chance to build my networks and meet new goals, develop more understanding of the necessary processes and build a foundation to transition to full-time work in my business” Blake said.
He is expanding both his client list and the range of services he offers, including sports photography. In 2023, Blake was selected as an official photographer for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and his client list also now includes basketball, cricket and New Zealand rugby.
In May this year, Blake won The Prince’s Trust Global Young Achiever Award for Oceania which was presented to him by The Trust’s Group Co CEO, Alison Brittain, at an event in Auckland last month.
Maintaining his mental health is important to Blake and working for himself, and doing something he loves, allows him to have some control over the pressure he faces.