Dissatisfied with fashion and celebrity photography, Giles Duley decided to focus on humanitarian issues, travelling to Sudan, Angola and Afghanistan to highlight the issues behind the conflicts. In 2011, while on patrol with the US Army, Giles stepped on an IED, losing both legs and an arm. His first impulse was to check his eyes and his right arm; with them he could still be a photographer and after months of rehab, he returned to work. Giles has since returned to Afghanistan and continues to document those affected by conflict around the world and their inspiring stories.
After a decade photographing superstars as an editorial photographer in fashion and music, Giles Duley turned his back on glamour to concentrate on helping people. After a spell as a carer he realized the power of stories and returned to photography. Working with respected charities such as MSF and UNHCR, he highlighted the lesser-known, individual stories behind the headlines of conflict and disaster.
Documenting the work and lives of charities and those they help around the world, Giles travelled to Afghanistan at the height of the conflict. Whilst on patrol with US Army’s 75th Cavalry Regiment, he stepped on an IED. He was severely injured, losing both legs and his left arm, spending two months in intensive care. Close to death twice (his family were told to say their goodbyes on both occasions) he pulled through.
Giles became the only civilian to be treated at the military hospital in Headley Court as the NHS had no experience in treating a triple amputee survivor of a bomb explosion. In the year that followed he underwent nearly thirty operations and a grueling rehabilitation regime. Despite being told his life would never be the same, that he would never walk again and he’d require constant assistance, he quickly determined to focus on what he could do rather than what he couldn’t. He stubbornly told his doctors “I’m still a photographer” and less than two years after the incident he was both walking and working again.
As well as returning to Afghanistan to complete his assignment, Giles has documented moving, inspiring human stories in Lebanon, Iraq, Cambodia, Laos, Colombia, Uganda, South Sudan, Angola and Jordan. Photographing conflicts and humanitarian crises for charities and NGOs, he has travelled the world meeting the victims of war and disaster. Sharing their stories with the world, he often returning years later to meet his subjects again and see how desperate circumstances are often tinged with genuine hope.
With stories that are by turns poignant, inspirational and amusing, Giles looks at the enduring nature of the human spirit as well as the passion for his work that helped him overcome his injuries. He offers a look at a world few see first hand, putting things in perspective, but also offering lessons in commitment, goals, and values. He considers what businesses can learn from the power and importance of telling a story as well as his own resilience and determination. He also recounts stories such as how getting a drunken tattoo with the men that saved his life didn’t entirely go to plan.
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Giles is one of the greatest storytellers I’ve ever heard. Taking his time with details and with a surprising amount of humour, he shares his experience of dealing with the consequences of nearly being killed by an IED while putting all the focus on the refugees from war that he’s met along the way. He’s so compelling you could hear a pin drop; not just that, he leaves you inspired to do more and make a real difference. JLA Agent Jessica Mears
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