• Gd7
  • Gd13
  • Gd3
  • Gd1
  • Gd2
  • Gd10
  • Gd4
  • Gd5
  • Gd6
  • Gd8
  • Gd11
  • Gd12
  • Gd14
Photography

Giles Duley: Becoming the Story

Posted by Rob Alderson,

It is almost nine months since photographer Giles Duley was blown up by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, leaving him without both legs and his left arm. Yesterday we went to meet him as he put the final touches to his new London show, Becoming the Story, and found out that he is a man on an artistic mission – to tell stories other people don’t know how to tackle. In this in-depth interview, he explains why he was so driven to tell these hidden stories, and why he’s determined to keep doing so.

One day in 2002 – after a row with a former Big Brother contestant – Giles Duley walked off a shoot and turned his back on the world of music, fashion and celebrity photography, vowing to use his camera for more worthwhile purposes (work he would mainly finance himself).

His new show, opening this week at KK Outlet in Hoxton Square showcases the extraordinary fruits of that career-change: “This work represents what I have done since making that decision,” he said.

“I have an issue that a lot of photography is driven by financial constraints – a lot of stories are not being told because they are not commercially viable.

“There’s a picture in this show of a Sudanese woman giving birth and the baby died – it won an award so I know it’s not a shit picture and yet nobody would publish it. In a sense that means it has got no value, but how can you look at that picture and say it’s got no value?”

The pictures in this exhibition – from Angola, Bangladesh and Sudan – record complex, ongoing, yet no-less-harrowing humanitarian crises which the mainstream media often show little appetite for.

“I think what is worrying is the way we get obsessed with certain events. I don’t think we are scared to show pictures that show suffering – some of the pictures from Haiti were very graphic, but the media needs it to be an event, with that structure. They struggle if we are documenting something which has been going on for 20 years.

“I am often reluctant to put dates on the pictures because these things are generally timeless.

“You don’t really get people on the news saying: ‘Here’s a lot of people suffering, they have been suffering for 20 years and they will go on suffering. We just thought we should point it out.’

“But it’s hugely important that we’re aware. Because I am not a news photographer I can look at a picture I took five years ago, go back there today and take the same picture. That’s the tragedy, that nothing’s changed.”

One such project involved photographing the Burmese refugees in Bangladesh, forced to flee persecution but recognised neither in their new land or, mostly, by the UN.

“There are just 25,000 people living in this camp and dying for the most ridiculous reasons that could be so easily sorted out – one little boy died because he got rice in his eye, scratched it and got an infection.


“When I turned up it was like a Biblical scene, like they thought they were going to get healed. It was really overwhelming. I have never cried taking pictures, apart from that day.

“I am taking a picture to tell their story – it’s my duty to get it published and if I don’t I feel like I’ve failed. I feel like I’ve let them down.”

He recounts with bitterness the story of the editor who asked him to reshoot a series of pictures of Angolan children blown up by land mines – with some pigs in.

“He had read somewhere pigs were used to sniff out land mines and said that people like pigs. Where do you start with that?”

Inspired by the American Government-funded pictures of The Great Depression and the J.P Morgan bankrolled study of Native Americans, Giles has set up Document, due to launch next year: “To get private investors to give money so stuff can be documented purely because it should be.”

For now there’s the KK Outlet show which includes not only an unbelievably powerful self-portrait of Giles sitting on a plinth, but also shots taken by David Bowering in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, which occurred while he was on patrol with US soldiers in Sangsar.

He admits it was a “really difficult decision” to include them, but in the end he was left with no choice.

“There’s a certain element that I did not want people to see me at that moment, like when you are a kid and you fall and cut your knee but you don’t want your mates to see you’re upset so you run round the corner and cry.

“Also it’s hard for my family and friends, but how could I not allow these to be published and then ever take another picture myself?

“My work is all about telling stories – communicating my feelings about war and in a way I see my body has become like installation art, a statement about what war does to people. I may as well use that as much as possible.

“The self portrait goes against my instincts – I spend most of my time wanting people not to see me in this way, but this is it. This is the reality. It was quite a cathartic moment.”

Giles has no doubts he wants to return to photography, to Afghanistan even, and hopes he can inspire others affected by the such life-changing incidents.

“It’s frustrating at the moment. I would much rather be out in the field than in a gallery,” he says.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Photography View Archive

  1. Visser-namaqualand-int-list

    Day-to-day Francois Visser is the kind of photographer you’ll find with his lens trained on scantily clad, elfin adolescents, such is the nature of fashion photography. But his carefully-composed portraits have a sensitivity that many newcomers lack; a substance-before-style approach that denotes a mature understanding of his medium.

  2. Davidtitlow-damonalbarn-int

    This year’s open submission Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize was awarded to London-based photographer David Titlow for a photograph of his toddler son. The photograph, if you haven’t seen it, is a hazy, Vermeer-esque image of David’s hungover friends on the morning after a party, passing his new son around in the cold light of the Swedish sun. Back on UK soil, David’s work couldn’t be more different. He seems to be something of a darling of the glossies: snapping models and celebs for the likes of Vanity Fair, Esquire, Nylon and Marie Claire. His impulsive, confident shots are a far cry from his tender, voyeuristic personal work – which is why we wanted to ask him a few questions about what he does. Here he is…

  3. Asger_carlsen-nymagthecut-int

    The annually ubiquitous words “resort collection” evoke whiffs of Campari and orange, sunset-lit terraces in The Hamptons, a suitcase of freshly pressed, pastel daywear. That’s why we were rather surprised when New York Magazine’s fashion branch The Cut decided to commission Asger Carlsen to help show off 2015’s sartorial offerings. Asger is a Danish artist living and working in New York, and is the go-to man for distorted, nightmare-like monochromatic images that have the power to send bolts of nerves fleetingly through your teeth.

  4. Wesleyverhoeve-oneofmany-int-8-jess-denver

    I don’t mean to show off, but I’ve met quite a few Americans, and I often ask them about the creative scene in the USA. More specifically I’m interested in whether it’s possible to elucidate any recurring themes or general characteristics in such a huge, diverse country. Most of them, bluntly but politely, say that no, no it’s not. What a ridiculous question. Get out my car. So to study American creativity is actually to study its individual outposts, and that’s where Wesley Verhoeve’s One Of Many project comes in.

  5. Arthurdrooker-merfest-main-int

    Cool Hunting used to be a place of current art and design, expensive watches, exclusive booze bottles, leather mountaineering accessories and cars you will never be able to afford. Nowadays it’s a place of exotic content nestled snugly in a brand new redesign that’s pretty ahead of the game. Recently it’s been championing the work of an American photographer called Arthur Drooker, largely focusing on his series entitled Conventional Wisdom. Arthur is something of a curiosity-lover, and his wild, weird series are the visual result of him being unable to resist the pull of “Bronies,” ventriloquists, clowns, re-enactors and taxidermists.

  6. Marcokesseler-outtakes-11-int

    We featured Marco Kesseler’s This Land Of Ours That Is Not Ours series last summer. The project forms a portrait of the street clashes in Kiev between government forces and the pro-European movement, documenting the tensions that led up to the riots, seemingly mundane domestic details and the broader architectural setting of the uprising.

  7. Tilljanz-olafur-list-int

    Remember back in July 2013 I said that photographer Till Janz was making a pretty impressive name for himself in the portrait photography business? Well, not to toot my own trumpet, but look who he’s been shooting lately. A-list Hollywood filmmaker Spike Jonze, check; king of the modern art world Olafur Eliasson, check; exclusive editorials for 032c, covers for Zeit Magazin and campaigns for Nike; check, check, check. It’s also worth mentioning he only got seven minutes for all those shots of Mr. Jonze. Anyway, needless to say the boy’s done good, and it’s great to watch him progress into the big leagues. Toot toot!

  8. Stephenshames-bronx_boys-list

    If the photographs in Stephen Shames’ series Bronx Boys don’t seem to sit comfortably alongside the funny, shareable, imagined-one-day-and-shot-the next photographic projects which we are so accustomed to seeing on the internet, then that’s because they don’t. Rather, Bronx Boys is the product of 23 years spent photographing a group of people living in the Bronx, New York City, and the photographs were taken not to garner likes or shares, but to publicise the plight of one of the poorest areas in NYC.

  9. Thomasprior-handball-list-3-int

    Thomas Prior is one of those sneaky names who first crept onto our radar with a stunning series documenting a firework fight in Tultepec, Mexico, and has since reappeared at six-monthly intervals with new and ever more adventurous projects from around the world. There was February last year, for example, when he photographed the YouTube awards for Vice magazine, and then a few months later he cropped up again with this brilliant series of images taken in Greece and Turkey for Afar magazine.

  10. List

    Andy Sewell’s new book Something Like a Nest is an archetypal portrayal of middle class Britishness, and it’s a picturesque, sentimental and charming one at that. To our delight, he steers clear of stereotypes and tired clichés – there are no weather-worn farmers nor Wellington boots in here, no sir – and instead creates a clear and honest portrait of country life. Placing perfectly centred shots of kitchen sinks and surrounding phenomena (plants, hand-soap, Fairy Liquid) alongside images of the English countryside coated in frost and glittering in the sun and frogspawn in Kilner jars, it’s enough to make even the most steely-hearted of expats teary-eyed.

  11. List

    If you were to search for a photographer who defines that gorgeous hazy middle ground between sleep and wakefulness, Marcelo Gomes would without a doubt be your best bet. He has built a career on creating images imbued with the kind of indistinct beauty that makes all of his subjects look about 50% more ethereal, nailing that dreamy aesthetic where so many photographers stumble.

  12. List-ph

    If you want to be a great photographer, it’s all about “integrity,” “dedication” and a “strong self belief about what you’re trying to produce,” according to a man who knows better than most: photographer, curator and founder of contemporary photographic art magazine Next Level, Sheyi Bankale.

  13. List

    It’s rare that old age is really celebrated, let alone portrayed in a fashion that makes it look like fun, but street photographer Michelle Groskopf’s shots of oldies captured in Larchmont, USA are a different story altogether. These guys seem to be having a blast; they’re cheeky, glamorous and charismatic. The series doesn’t just focus its lens on the over-60s of this Los Angeles suburb, there are teenagers, young mums and suited businessmen too, but the photos of the older generation are refreshingly cheerful, so here they are edited down for your enjoyment.