Twenty-five-year Solvang resident has some of his work on display at the The Coffee House by Chomp

Photographer Ryan Abbott is exhibiting his photographs for the second time at The Coffee House by Chomp in Solvang. 

Taking photographs has been a passion of his since childhood. He has the gift of seeing things that others just pass by and now he is able to share that gift with others.

“All my life, people have told me I have a good eye for detail. I have been taking photographs all my life of things and places I find beautiful,” said Abbott. “When I was diagnosed about two and a half years ago with autism, I linked up with Hidden Wings and I began creating videos for them and donating my time to Hidden Wings. My first video was titled ‘Lavender Harvest.’”

Last year Chomp invited Abbott to display his photography in their coffee shop and people started asking if they could purchase them. 

“That’s when I realized I could make money selling my photos. Right now, people are buying them off the wall. I like to take pictures of nature and animal life that live and thrive in the Valley,” Abbott explained. “We go to the Botanical Garden on hikes and I always bring my camera. Walking to the river is where I find my best inspiration.”

Hidden Wings is a path-breaking model of transforming the lives of those with autism and giving hope to those whom society would leave behind, as stated on their website.

A photo taken by Ryan Abbott hangs on the wall at Coffee House by Chomp in Solvang. Contributed Photo

“At Hidden Wings we help young people to develop life skills and Chomp gave us permission to hang our students’ work in their coffee shop,” said Sophia Barnett, a mentor with Hidden Wings.

Abbott has been a resident of Solvang for 25 years having come to the Valley from Omaha, Nebraska.

“Through a series of mishaps, I came to visit my parents who used to live in the Valley but they moved back to Nebraska and I stayed here,” said Abbott. “I got a job at Nielsens Market, now Valley Fresh, and have been working there ever since.”

Abbott has been a student/supporter at Hidden Wings for the past three years. He attends three days a week.

“I was encouraged by Jim Billington, the founder of Hidden Wings, and when I found out I was on the spectrum, it helped me make sense of my quirkiness,” said Abbott. “Hidden Wings has helped me branch out as a person and to overcome social challenges.”

“We go on a lot of outings, find jobs for our students, and a lot of our students are in college,” said Barnett. “We teach life skills, how to count money, hygiene, cooking, and how to live on their own if they have to. We go on horseback rides, teach sports, play basketball, and we also put on plays. Our students also sell local honey, make soap, arnica balm, bath salts, lip balms, and lavender bags all of which are sourced locally and are organic. Our students have to be 18 years or older to attend Hidden Wings.”

“Ryan is our star student. He helps us raise donations from people who shop at Valley Fresh, and from people who attend our plays. We then use that money to buy costumes or anything else we may need for our plays.” 

In addition to his photography, Abbott also enjoys his time on stage.

“I have been in six plays to date: ‘Macbeth,’ ‘The Grinch,’ ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ ‘The Polar Express,’ ‘Under the Big Top,’ and I will be playing Leonardo da Vinci at the Shakespearian Festival on June 1 at River View Park in Buellton along with the other students. Everyone says I should create an online store for my photos, and I will eventually, I just have to learn how first,” said Abbott, smiling.

For more information on Abbott, email, visit his Instagram page @ryanabbott64, or visit Hidden Wings on Youtube, or on Instagram @solvanghiddenwings.

The Coffee House by Chomp is at 1693 Mission Drive, D103, Solvang.

Feature Image: Photographer Ryan Abbott is rarely seen without his camera. Some of his photos can be seen on the wall behind him. More of his photos can be seen at The Coffee House by Chomp in Solvang. Contributed Photo