Migraine Nightmare Sparks Successful Photography Career

June 12, 2018 7:00 AM

An extended stay in Ann Arbor inspired a migraine patient to become a professional photographer. Learn more about his art and new outlook on life.


Debilitating migraines once left Adam Jacobs confined to a dark bedroom at home in his native London.

Today, he’s hard at work around the world, photographing celebrities such as Mick Jagger and Robert DeNiro and jetting off to major sporting events that include the World Cup, the Olympics and the Super Bowl.

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“My brain is hypersensitive to everything,” the 32-year-old Jacobs says, “and I think it helps with my photography. I pick up on things that I wouldn’t have before.”

The trouble started when he got sick after a backpacking trip with friends nearly 15 years ago. Jacobs began experiencing migraines all day, every day. This left him lying in a dark room for almost three years, unable to perform even simple tasks such as watching television or eating a meal with his family.

But once he came to Ann Arbor and was able to control some of the symptoms with University of Michigan neurologist Wade Cooper, D.O., Jacobs started taking five-minute field trips in Ann Arbor. Being outdoors, even briefly, was a huge step.

“I brought a little camera everywhere to distract my mind from the pain,” Jacobs says.

People started taking notice of his visual work. Soon, Jacobs was taking artistic photos for Michigan Athletics. What began as a hobby became a successful career.

Jacobs has learned how to master his migraines when working, using noise-canceling earphones when shooting in large stadiums and arenas to ensure he is focused on the job and not his pain. He even schedules which days he’ll have a cup of coffee.

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“I haven’t had one second pain-free since I was 18,” he says. “Rather than working a 9-to-5, I’m lucky that I found a career with flexibility that earns me an income.”

Between medications, specialist appointments and lifestyle adjustments, he continues to refine his treatment to keep a baseline of pain low and to know what to do when the migraines are especially intense.

Jacobs and his wife, Charlotte, are based in California, but he’s always busy traveling the world for photography assignments and twice-yearly trips to Cooper’s clinic, where they evaluate progress and “think outside of the box” together, Jacobs says.