Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos

It is the simple life hacks that make all the difference

December 06, 2022
It is the simple life hacks that make all the difference
Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos
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Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos
It is the simple life hacks that make all the difference
Dec 06, 2022

Peter Goadby-Watt has been a photographer for over thirty years. He started his career as a photographic assistant and freelance photographer. He joined the BBC photographic studio (88-90)  before joining the Metropolitan Police Service in 1990 - 2014 as a forensic photographer and Head of Forensic Training. There, he honed his skills using multiple formats, film processing and printing; he joined the video team and used professional ENG broadcast HD video cameras and offline editing. 

In July 2018, Peter was treated for cancer, that has resulted in him becoming a wheelchair and crutch user.  

Peter says, "Okay, I can't necessarily do what I used to love doing in that way. But you know, if I still love doing it, maybe there's another way to do it differently. 

His passion for photography has never dwindled, and you will see some of his personal favourite images on his website.

Instagram: @pgwimaging

Show Notes Transcript

Peter Goadby-Watt has been a photographer for over thirty years. He started his career as a photographic assistant and freelance photographer. He joined the BBC photographic studio (88-90)  before joining the Metropolitan Police Service in 1990 - 2014 as a forensic photographer and Head of Forensic Training. There, he honed his skills using multiple formats, film processing and printing; he joined the video team and used professional ENG broadcast HD video cameras and offline editing. 

In July 2018, Peter was treated for cancer, that has resulted in him becoming a wheelchair and crutch user.  

Peter says, "Okay, I can't necessarily do what I used to love doing in that way. But you know, if I still love doing it, maybe there's another way to do it differently. 

His passion for photography has never dwindled, and you will see some of his personal favourite images on his website.

Instagram: @pgwimaging

Phil Friend  0:12  
Hello, everybody, it's Phil Friend here with another edition of Gear, Gadgets and Gizmos. And if you don't know what that's all about, it's where we try and chat to somebody who's doing some interesting things to get around their disability. They're using kit in an unusual way or something of that sort. And today, we've got a gentleman by the name of Peter Goadby-Watt, and Peter is a photographer. But I'm not going to say any more about him at this point, because we want to get into action, what he does and how he does it. So Hello, Peter, welcome.

Peter Goadby-Watt  0:46  
Hi Phil thank you very much.

Phil Friend  0:48  
Good to see you. Good to hear from you. Now, Peter, let's start at the beginning not right at  the beginning with your birth or something. But I know that in about 2018, I think it was you got cancer. And that enabled you to join the illustrious club of disabled people that were both members of, but what was that all about? Peter? What? Well,

Peter Goadby-Watt  1:11  
if I could take it back a little bit before then. Because I think what how I became a photographer, and my pre disabled life, if you like, is quite relevant. So going back, I hated school. So it wasn't particularly academic. But I loved drawing. And when I went to the careers advice, there was a choice of either go to art college or join the RAF regiment. I thankfully, I got into art college, to do art drawing, design, that type of thing. And it was whilst doing that, Watford School of Art, that photography was a very small part of the course. And I remember printing my first ever print of a from a negative that I processed from a shot that I had taken about half an hour earlier. And it was magic. That was the bug. So that was about 1984/85.

Phil Friend  2:13  
So this is well well before digital. 

Unknown Speaker  2:16  
Yeah, absolutely.  Yeah. And, and I was hooked ever since. So I left college in 1987. Then freelance for about a year, which basically meant I was unemployed and scrambling around. And then was fortunate to be offered a job at the BBC as a photographer at TV Centre in Shepherds Bush. So I was permanently employed, but I was on a freelance basis. And they were talking about people being made redundant from the BBC. And I thought, Alright, I need to get a full time job. That's gonna be like guaranteed employment. And then, ironically, about a week later in the British Journal of photography, the Met or advertising for police photographers, so I applied to the Met, and got a job full time with the Metropolitan Police as a forensic photographer,

Phil Friend  3:13  
in the in the police work that you did when you actually shooting scenes of crimes and those kinds of things. Oh, you were so you see some pretty unpleasant stuff. I would have thought 

Unknown Speaker  3:24  
Yeah, I mean, the bread and butter work room department when I joined it had about 120 photographers. I mean, huge, huge department. And the bread and butter was scene of crime photography. So you know, crime scenes, and you know, which would be in all weathers and all types of environments. And you'd see right, you'd see some very horrific stuff. But also, the department did a lot of things like video production, publicity photography for the Met, surveillance, public order. So basically anything with a policing enforcement type of environment that requires photography, so it was mainly going to crime scenes, but also it was much more proactive with doing things like surveillance video, as well. In 2000, I set up the first ever professional photographic training course at the Police College at Hendon, and then ended up having six full time trainers to train just in photography. And we would not only trained police photographers, we'd also train senior crime officers and police officers in surveillance and that type of thing. And then eventually, I ended up running the entire scientific support College, which later became the forensic faculty of the crime Academy still based at Hendon. And when I was responsible for all aspects of forensic training,

Phil Friend  4:52  
that's quite an amazing journey, isn't it? I mean, you. 

Unknown Speaker  4:55  
Yeah, it was just it needed that sort of level. professionalisation and dedication to it rather than sort of ad hoc training. But that then led to me to work with Interpol for six years, developing a European photographic training, qualification. And then in the October 2005, I went to America and had a epileptic seizure whilst in San Francisco. Thankfully, they put it down. Well, I told them that I not had much sleep and I'd been eating crap and drinking loads. And they basically their advice was will eat more healthfully get some more sleep. But then came home a couple of days later, and had an MRI scan, they found that I had a large brain tumour which would cause a seizure. So had that removed at the Royal Free in December 2005. And it is irrelevant, because that then metastasized to my pelvis. 2018 But at the time, they didn't classify it as cancer until 2018. When they did, but did say

Phil Friend  6:12  
13 years ish. Yeah, of trouble free once 

Unknown Speaker  6:17  
Yeah, I mean, it left me with epilepsy. So I was medication controlled epilepsy. Couldn't drive for three, two and a half to three years. I got MRSA three times. So I have now quite a weak chemical makeup with my skin. Anyway, so skipping forward I took volunteer redundancy in the Met in 2014. Then almost went full circle because I then got a job at a local college, teaching FE student so 16/17 year olds photography. So I went right back to basics, because they still had dark rooms. For a long time. I couldn't work out what I really what my where my passion was. But I realised that I love talking to people. I love meeting new people. I love talking to them. And I thought, You know what, I made a career out of photographing and training people to photograph dead bodies. I want to photograph live ones. So that's when I really concentrated on portrait photography, and things that involved people. So I did. Portraits was my main emphasis. But I also did fashion shows so runway's London Fashion Week, I used to do, and also live music events as well. So everything very much, you know, I live live thing, which I loved. And things were going fantastically well. I was really building up a great volume of work for my portfolio, and had quite a large range of clients as well, one day or when it's in 2018, I went into central London to meet a friend of mine to go to the National Portrait Gallery. And the pavement was wet because it's been raining. And I sort of slipped, and I got such a sharp pain that I couldn't prevent myself from falling over. So I fell over. And people came and helped me up and I really struggled to walk for the rest of the day, I was in absolute agony, went and had an x ray the following day. And whilst they said I hadn't fractured anything, they could see a large tumour on my pelvis. So I was referred to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore. And they took it out. But they couldn't do a hip replacement for me because there just wasn't enough bone left. So whilst I can stand, I can't move the muscles to move my right leg.

Phil Friend  8:53  
Peter, this then this now is this is permanent. And so you're faced with having to use crutches at that point. And yeah, yeah, for certain things.

Unknown Speaker  9:05  
Yeah, I can mobilise short distances on crutches. But for longer distances also for sitting down and a long time. Not at home. I need a wheelchair. I use a mobility scooter as well to go into the local town where I live. But yeah, so I permanently on crutches to just move around the house. But if I'm going any further, so if I'm leaving the house, I really have to take a wheelchair or mobility scooter with me. 

Phil Friend  9:36  
Gotcha. Okay, so, so obviously this comes as a shock you you go through all the surgery, you eventually emerge from all of that. You're now faced with a very, very, you've got huge experience in the photography world. You've set up your business, and then this has happened to you. So now you begin the process. Tell me about that. The process of saying, Okay, how do I carry on? Because those of us who know anything about photography, certainly the level you're doing it know about big lenses and big cameras and lots of stuff, lights and all sorts of gear. So how do you do it on crutches and wheelchairs? And mobility scooters oh, well, that's not a problem easy. I mean, how do you? What did what adjustments did you make so that you carry on doing what you're doing?

Unknown Speaker  10:27  
Right? Well, when I was in hospital, I was in there four weeks. And then I started thinking about, well, if I was to do it, how will I do it? And because of my style of photography, at the time, was very much going to places. So if I was doing portraits, I would go to somebody's work location or a location they chose, and I would work with their environment, rather than the confines of a studio. Yeah. So I had to say that, of course, you know, runways and things like that music events, they can't come to you, you have to go to them. But the biggest issue I was facing was I can't get anywhere. So I started to think about, well, maybe I should actually just go back to doing studio portraits. So that was my plan. And, and before I had a portrait studio built at home, I was when I finally got home, I was using all different parts of the house, looking at the lighting, where it was falling on walls, where the windows were just to try to get different looking portraits. And that started to work really, really well. And then I remember distinctly it was the day Boris Johnson became prime minister, I woke up that morning. And the vision in my right eye was blurred. And I thought, that's not good. That's not right. And it didn't go away. So went to an emergency eye clinic, and they referred me to Moorfields Eye Hospital, in Old Street, and they found out through their examinations and scans that I'd got a tumour in my right eye, as well. Brilliant. And, and most photographers will tell you, they you focus always with one particular eye. And my focus in AI was my right eye. So of course, I couldn't focus anything. And that's when I really thought you know, what, what is the point of carrying on because I can't focus? But of course, you're born with two eyes, aren't you? So once I got over the shock of realising that, I can't really see that well out of my right eye now. So I thought, Well, okay, I'm gonna have to try and learn to focus with the left eye, and didn't realise how good my left eye was actually? So that works really well occasionally, I do still forget. And I think why isn't this image sharp oh its because I'm using I'm using the wrong eye to focus with I then decided to I'm also I was when locked down happened, I couldn't go to the gym to do my physiotherapy. Because I rely on a lot of physiotherapy on a daily basis. So we've got quite a big garden. So my wife just suggested, well, why didn't we build a gym. So I built the gym. And thankfully, the gym was big enough to turn half of it into a portrait studio. So this is where all the adaptations come in. Because I then had to think about how can I work there on my own, all very well working with people to help you. But I don't want to rely on other people to help me. So I went through lots of thought processes of knowing how a conventional studio is set up to how I can physically work. So one of the first things was I need to have a wheelchair down there permanently in the portrait studio, because I can get from the house through the studio on the crutches. But I need something to sit on while I'm down there because it can't stand for very long. So I've got a wheelchair down there, which was the NHS provided wheelchair which they don't want back, you know, local authority, I think to their wheelchair. So I've got that down there. And I've got the light stands, I bought wheels to go on the feet of the lights stands so that rather than lifting the light stands to reposition it, I could just move it across the floor and glide it on its wheels. But I've pretty much got a permanent static setup of three flashes. And so I thought right, what I need to do is rather than try to be really clever and fancy with the photography, I need to strip it back to the basics, which is good lighting, strong composition and an interesting subject. They're the three most important things. So that's what I now do. I don't rely on the background being part of the narrative. I just rely on, as I said, Good lighting, good composition, and an interesting subject.

Phil Friend  14:56  
If I look at your website and I'm going to post your link to your website on on the notes for our listeners, because I think they'd love to see some of your work. But when I looked, I mean, clearly, there are still pictures that you're taking where you're going out and on location. So yeah, you probably, you found a way of doing that your mobility scooter, presumably helps a bit. 

Peter Goadby-Watt  15:18  
Yeah, you know what it's as anybody who's got a mobility disability, but I found, particularly with a  walking impairment, is planning is key. You know, I can't build the good days have been able to just say, You know what, I fancy going and doing this today or over, I need if I want to go somewhere, there has to be lots of preparation, lots of online research, you know, if I can I'll send my wife along to see what the access is, like, what parking is like, as well, because you need to be able to park near a venue, I still haven't used public transport since 2018. I mean, COVID, actually, everyone was complaining about LockDown. COVID was a blessing to me in a way, because I thought, well, at least, you lot can't go out and I can't go out. So now you can see a bit like what my life is like, sort of thing. But yes, I've not used public transport since 2018. I've not driven actually since before 2018. And so it's all about access. And because what I've realised is actually because I've looked back at everything that I used to do pre walking impairment, and most of it, I could actually still do as long as I can get there. So for me, it's not about the doing, it's about the getting there in order to do the photography,

Phil Friend  16:40  
what about the the equipment? Do you, you take it with you? Or is it on location? Do you have it delivered?

Peter Goadby-Watt  16:47  
Now I've so most of the photography I do is in the studio. So I've said I've got my own kit, it's it's all rigged, it's all set up permanently. And I use, I use a very simple setup all the time. So that my the only real thing that I change, which I cannot do on my own, it's like I've got a big portable background, which is like huge pop up background. And this is something like two metres by three metres. I mean, this is huge. One side is black, one side is white. Now what I do is I do have the portrait photography with a black background, and half of it with the white background. But I can't physically move the background on my own whilst trying to balance and so I have to have somebody in to assist me and change the background. So the next thing I'm looking into is getting like a roller system. So that I can have a black background or a white background, which I can control myself

Phil Friend  17:49  
what we've got, then we've got near the end of our time, we've got your journey, before your disability, which is phoyography of various sorts, you then get your impairment, you adapt your photography to accommodate that. So rather than going out doing lots of stuff, you now have people coming to you for the pictures and so on and prints. If if somebody's listening to us, and they're thinking I'd like to have a go at this and they've got issues of walking or mobility or whatever. What bit of advice would you offer them? Given your experience? I know you've got many years experiences with photography, so let's assume they know what they're doing photographically. Yeah, major mobility problems of some sort.

Peter Goadby-Watt  18:41  
Well, interestingly, I mentor a couple of other people just who I've been in touch with or have been in touch with me, one of whom has got cerebral palsy. Right and, and he has found a way to set his camera under my guidance so that he can shoot it with just with one hand. So what I would say to anybody is identify the kit, either that you've got or that you would need, and work out a way that you can do it or use it effectively with your disability. And if you can, then you'll always be able to if you see what I mean, then nothing is unachievable. It's when you've this physically nothing at all for you to use that then you think okay, well, I'm sort of defeated me in a way. But you know, so the issues with me you'd have to break it down into how you photograph something in my case. And I think you're right if I if I can't stand up, what do I need to do? I need to sit down. Okay, well, if I need to sit down, what do I need to sit in? It's got to be comfortable, and it's got to be the chair that moves. So a chair that moves is the chair on wheels I a wheelchair. I need space to put kit that I'm not using so I need to put a spare lens I see no point in the lens being in a drawer in a cupboard, the other side of the studio, because I can't get up to get it. So I've got a bag attached to the side of the wheelchair, that my kit that I'm shooting with goes in. And it's all those little add ons, I've got somewhere to lean the crutches, because when I'm holding the camera, where have crutches gonna go, I can't have him lying on the floor as a trip hazard. So I found somewhere to wedge the crutches that are close by whilst I am shooting. And as I said, I do things like put the wheels on the light stand so that I can move the light stands whilst I'm sitting down. And it's not too heavy.

Phil Friend  20:42  
Is there one thing? I mean, obviously, the the wheelchair, your crutches, are your medical, you need those, whatever you'd need does. Is there one thing you you use, that you couldn't do without? And I mean, I quite liked the idea of the bag hanging on your chair, for example, with your lenses and stuff. And is there something like that, that you've realised if you didn't have that? Yeah, you couldn't do that?

Peter Goadby-Watt  21:10  
Well, the whole thing of, I mean, because I'm still learning now even though I've had my disability since 2018, which, you know, I think it is definitely different if you have an acquired disability compared to if you're born with a disability, because you almost grow up. Learning to adapt. Yeah, because you don't know anything different. But I am always adapting studio. And I'm I would actually say it's the silly little simple things that make a world of difference. And it is for me, for my photography, it is as simple as having the bag strapped to the side of the wheelchair, it's not on the back of the wheelchair, it's sort of on the side, and it's at the side that I can grab a lens, I can take a lens off, put the lens in the bag, get the lens out and, and I can do all of that from sitting in the wheelchair. Whereas before I had that bag, I would have to either have somebody holding the lens that I'd want to use, or I'd have to get up on the crutches put the camera down, put the camera so after every round hangs swinging from the neck, so I have to get the crutches get up hobble across the room, get the lens out, which is expensive, and I risk dropping it, put it in the pocket, go back to the camera, sit down in the wheelchair, get the camera take the lens up. And it was such a lengthy process, I thought I need to speed this up. So simply having something a step up attached to the wheelchair is fantastic. And what I found so another thing that's quite similar. When I go out on the mobility scooter, I still need my crutches a to get onto the mobility scooter and B to get off the mobility scooter at the other end. Now, all the ways that you can buy to carry crutches in particular on a mobility scooter have the crutches behind you. Well, that's no good, if you need the crutches to just be able to get behind you. So I bought these little terry clips, and got these velcro straps. And I've attached my crutches to the tiller of the mobility scooter. So the crutches are sitting in front of me. They're easy to get easy to take on and off. There's no it doesn't. Yeah, they literally just snap into place. And what made me think about that was how firearms officers carry their weapons in cars. They have their carbines clipped in place so that they can easily access them. And I thought that's what I need. You know, it's like, you know, you see adverts of people clipping things towards like their brooms to a wall in the kitchen. It's a quick release mechanism. And that's exactly what I need. And I thought and thought and thought about it and came up with a very simple life hack. And it is the simple life hacks that makes such a difference

Phil Friend  24:07  
I'm going to ask you to, because you should be able to do this quite easily. I'm going to ask you to send me a picture of your scooter with the clips on no problem. And I'll post that on the site. And I'd quite like to see the bag hanging on the chair. Okay. Being a photographer, you might be able to take pictures thatshow that

Peter Goadby-Watt  24:29  
Yeah I'll do my best.

Phil Friend  24:31  
So So we're at the end of our time, Peter, I'm very grateful to you because that is a really interesting story. I mean, your whole life story is very interesting, but how you've managed since your disability arrived is fascinating, very professional career you're doing but what you've said to us, I think is two things that resonate all the way through the story. One is plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, plan, do not just go off and do stuff. So that's your big one. And the other one is to invent your own way around the problem, like the bag, like the clips for your sticks. It's small things that make the huge differences isn't it is what you've said.

Peter Goadby-Watt  25:16  
Yeah, that's society. Absolutely. And also deciding on. Okay, I can't necessarily do what I used to love doing in that way. But you know, if I still love doing it, maybe there's another way to do it differently. And that is me with choosing, you know, what I did? You know, they always say, Build think outside the box. Well, I thought inside the box, I built a box so that I could carry on with my portrait photography, because I can't necessarily go out easily to the outside world to go and photograph somebody in the middle of a field.

Phil Friend  25:52  
Love, you can't go to it, you can bring it to you. Exactly. You bring it to you. Yeah, well, on that note, I'm going to bring this to a close. But, Peter, thank you so much. I'll take pleasure, make sure that your website and therefore access to your your photographs are available to those that want to look at them because I think they're stunning. Some of the pictures are unbelievable. 

Peter Goadby-Watt  26:16  
Well, my website is needs updating, but I post a lot on Instagram, and my Instagram is @ PGWimaging. That's on Instagram.

Phil Friend  26:27  
I'll make sure that's there. Peter, thank you so much for giving us your time. Fascinating. And I wish you well. And thank

Peter Goadby-Watt  26:34  
you very much for more pictures. Take care. Bye bye.

Phil Friend  26:37  
Bye bye. If you'd like to share your stories about how you use technology to overcome some of the barriers that your disability puts in your way in please contact me at Or you can look up the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers details on their website, which is Thanks very much and I look forward to hearing from you.

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