COLUMBUS (WCMH) – For 20 years, he was an exemplary music teacher for Columbus City Schools.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, for 56-year-old Phil Adams, the music died. He quit his job and, at times, thought he was going crazy.

His camera, his courage, and a diagnosis brought his life, maybe for the first time, into focus.

Adams can often be found walking the south side alleys of Columbus early in the morning.

“I go out on walks with my camera,” he said. “I naturally gravitated to places where there were no people.”

But people saw him taking pictures of garbage, appearing sketchy and suspicious. Police were called, so a friend put up flyers to help.

“This guy’s not dangerous. He does beautiful work,” Adams said about the message on the flier.

And what catches his eye is what you throw away. Battling depression all his life, virtual school made it worse and he resigned as the music teacher for Columbus Schools in September.

At the urging of friend, saw a doctor.

“So at 56 years old you were diagnosed as autistic?” NBC 4’s Brad Johansen asked.

“I was,” Adams said. “After a four-hour assessment.”

“And what has that changed?” Johansen wondered

“Well, in some ways it hasn’t changed a lot,” he says searchingly. “I’m still me, I’m still the same person I’ve always been.”

“Anything that’s a cap is really interesting to me,” Adams said later while walking through one of his alleys, bending down to take a picture of a sewer cap.

A piece of metal with peeling paint. A fence hanging on by half a nail.

“Recognizing the beauty in things that are overlooked, or discarded, or ignored,” he said, describing the pictures he’s drawn to.

Because that’s how he felt.

“Alleys are places where I would end up,” Adams said. “They are in-between places.”

Finding his place. It took five decades.

“Everything has value and, in some way, this resonates with me, in wanting to express that message to the world,” Adams shares with passion.

What’s a picture worth?

“Even in difficult circumstances, you can find beauty, especially in the ordinary and the everyday,” his message continues, adding his photography has given him some hope.

You can find more of Adams’ photography on his Instagram page.