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Blind since he was a teenager in the 80s, Gary Waite is nonetheless one of the best-known Nokia N8 photographers in the UK. Packing a 12-megapixel camera, the Nokia N8 is a powerhouse when it comes to taking stunning photos.

But if you’re blind, is there any benefit from using such a device? We spent some time with Gary to find out how he uses the device and what he gains from taking photos.

You may have seen Gary Waite in a recent TV advertising campaign from Nokia. Armed with a Nokia N8, Gary is seen taking photos of a rollercoaster, some people and the pier at the UK town of Blackpool. Now being blind, we were keen to understand how he achieves these shots, and why?

Here’s the extended version of the advert:


NC: Have you always been blind, or is it something that’s developed later in life?
GW: I was born with normal sight, but it wasn’t until 1983 that I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). It’s hereditary and it was passed on from my mother. I have three nephews and one other brother who now also have this condition. As a teenager I just wanted to go out with my mates, but I kept bumping into things. It took me about 12 years to fully accept I have RP. It’s now a part of my life.

NC: How severe is your blindness, can you see anything at all or are you completely blind?
GW: The only thing I can see is shadows, so I can’t make out any shapes. It’s just pieces of black and white.

NC: How do you go about taking the shot?
GW: If I’m taking a photo of a person, it’s a very tactile method. I get them to stand straight in front of me, hold their hands out so I can feel where they are. I then touch the top of their head to determine their height and I line up their shoulders, all the time remembering where their body parts are in relation to my own. Stepping backwards in a straight line, I’m able to keep them in shot.

NC: Why do you take the photos and what do you get out of it?
GW: Being that I can’t actually see the photos after I’ve taken them, I can’t enjoy that aspect of it. It’s the achievement of being able to capture something beautiful and have other people look at them and enjoy them. That’s why I take them, to give joy to others.

I have also learnt a whole new bunch of skills too. I’ve improved on my communication skills as I’ve met new people who are keen to talk to me about the images and my blindness, and I’ve had to learn to improve my planning skills to as there’s a certain amount of planning needed to go out and take great photos.

NC: Do you find the Nokia N8 easy to use as a camera?
GW: I think it’s brilliant. Its square, nice simple shape makes it easy for me to keep it steady when I’m trying to take a photo. And the button on the top, I like that too when I hold it halfway in to focus and fully press it to complete the shot.

And because it’s on a phone, I’m able to use a special software that talks to me as I use the phone so I know what menu I’m in, which is really helpful. In fact I’ve written a poem about it:

Nokia N8 recommended by Gary Waite.
It’s easy to operate.
It’s great for taking photos in landscape and portrait,
as I’m about to demonstrate.
Get one, and appreciate.

NC: What advice would you offer anybody – blind or not blind – when it comes to taking photos with the Nokia N8?
GW: Just get out there and start taking photos. Whatever angle you hold it at, you can take some real top quality pictures and people will be amazed at the results.

Gary has his own online gallery too, through the PhotoVoice website. PhotoVoice‘s aim is to build skills within disadvantaged and marginalised communities using innovative photography and digital storytelling methods. Ultimately giving people the opportunity to express themselves and create tools for advocacy to achieve social change.

Gary has also produced a photobook named Favourite Session that sees him reliving his childhood memories of the DIY culture of West Indian sound systems, clashes or sessions. If you want a preview of his work, you can click the link above. We’ve also included a couple of images taken from his book, although we’re not sure what camera these were taken with.

We’d like to thank Gary for taking the time to talk with us. It’s great to hear about someone who feels their life is changed for the better thanks to technology. Don’t you think?