Former soldier blinded by rocket attack in Afghanistan overcomes trauma by taking stunning pictures in new life as a PHOTOGRAPHER
These are the stunning images captured by a soldier blinded in a horrific rocket attack in Afghanistan.
Chris Nowell, 32, lost total sight in one eye and was partially blinded in the other during a Taliban attack on his base in Helmand province.
After spending a month in hospital he faced an uncertain future and became scared to leave the house.
But he was saved after his wife Claire convinced him to start attending Blind Veterans UK events.
He took tentative steps initially but threw himself into photography when he joined an exchange with Project Gemini, a charity which supports blind American veterans in 2010.
He has since been to America twice on the exchange and now supports other blind veterans to learn photography.
The father-of-three said: “Photography gave me an excuse to get out whereas I was sitting around doing nothing before. I had no motivation to do anything.
“I was reluctant to go but my wife forced me. Honestly it was the best thing I ever did.
“I got a camera and started taking photos. I didn’t know what I wanted to do but found myself going down the landscape route.
“I was scared to go outside before that but after I’ve never looked back and I’m always out of the house taking photos.
“Every now and then I fall over but when I get set up I enjoy the peace and quiet.”
Chris goes out to take photographs every week and is often accompanied by his wife and full-time carer Claire, 29.
The former lance corporal in the King’s Royal Hussars started taking photos around five years ago and said he was initially terrible.
He said: “It took me around two years to get to know how to use a camera. I was awful to start with but now I know what I’m doing and I get a bit fussy.
“If the light’s not right I’ll say to my wife ‘let’s home back later’. My eyesight has got worse since I started taking photos.
“Originally I used to look through the eyepiece with my left eye but now it’s just a blur.
“I’ve got a full-frame Cannon 5D and I look at the digital screen when I’m taking photos.
“It’s not the orthodox way of doing things but it works for me.”
The blast in September 2007 left Chris with a fractured skull and neurological memory loss as well as the loss of his eyesight after his optical nerve was removed.
He is totally blind in his right eye and has no peripheral vision in his left eye, leading him to be medically discharged from the army in early 2009.
But having previously been very active, he became depressed when he lost his independence.
He said: “I was a bit scared to leave the house and photography has given me so much.
“I am a lot calmer now, because of the army I wasn’t aggressive but I used to be a bit bossy.
“Whereas now I am much more peaceful. My wife sees it, I am a lot calmer and nicer to deal with.”
Chris was known as Xmas in the army because Nowell sounds like the French word, Noel, for Christmas.
He started a Facebook page promoting his work and attracted thousands of likes when well known Derbyshire photographer Villager Jim liked his page.
Since then he revealed he has been inundated with requests from his pictures.
Chris served his country in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan during his eight in the army.
He and Claire live in Dronfield, Derbyshire, with their three children, Luke eight, Adam, five and Rhys, three.