• 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. Cv6list

    Take some sexy shaped candles and photographs of naked women lounging around their houses and sprawling over the Crystal Palace dinosaur statues, and you’ve got yourself photographer Camille Vivier’s portfolio. Odd? Yes. Intriguing? Certainly. But I think that’s the point.

  2. List

    Freelance photographer and photo-editor Geordie Wood is a man with tricks up his sleeve. His role as “a one-person photography department” at The Fader, not to mention innumerable commissions for publications from The New York Times and TIME to Vogue and Nowness, prove that he knows his stuff, and his skill is there fore the seeing in his photographs.

  3. Phlist

    It’s about time we featured photographer Peter Hapak on our site; his portraits have sure graced the pages of many a prestigious publication. His portfolio is the photographic equivalent of a box of Quality Street; not only packed with famous faces, but also cracking clients like TIME, The New York Times Magazine and The Times. In case you were wondering, he doesn’t exclusively work for publications with “time” in the title – he shot an Emmy portfolio for Variety earlier this year. Born in Hungary and no less than a fourth generation photographer, Peter has a timeless (sorry, couldn’t resist) style, finding something in these familiar faces which hasn’t quite been captured before. Thankfully, unlike a tin of everyone’s favourite Christmas chocolates, the treats in Peter’s portfolio seem to last forever. Feast your eyes, my friends.

  4. Dbglist

    We’ve posted before about how David Brandon Geeting creates striking images of seemingly ordinary objects and revitalises the age old still life. With these shiny new photographs, he bumps the beauty up to another level of aesthetic glee. Hyper-colourful, vibrant and sharp, these images are meticulously crafted compilations of – well – stuff. But looked at through David’s lens this stuff is seen in all its glory; never has a pepper looked so brilliantly, crunchily, juicily red, or a rubber glove so squeakily, summery yellow. This is a man who clearly delights in design – if I was a banana, I’d want David to take my picture.

  5. List

    I’m not sure how well Only Fools And Horses translates as a cultural reference point to our international readers; there’s something quintessentially British about the sitcom featuring a get-rich-quick ducker and diver in his (pre-trendy) Peckham flat. But young London-based photographer Nadia Lee Cohen took Del Boy’s now-iconic home – with its charming hodge-podge of faux sophisticated stylings – and used it as the backdrop for this slightly unsettling shoot. Nadia’s work has a very pronounced slick, shiny and colour-saturated aesthetic that fits this slightly odd narrative perfectly – this mysterious femme fatale seems at one moment confidently at home in Del Boy’s surroundings, at others slightly bewildered. It’s weird, and I love it.

  6. Boy7list

    Shot at his house in Brooklyn, New York, David Armstrong’s series 615 Jefferson Avenue creates an aura of mysticism around the young male models. Some are muscular, some are boyish, but they all seem strangely ethereal. They exist in a world apart from the everyday; free from work, from worries, from the washing-up. Armstrong’s apartment is a wonderland of sorts, filled with masks, gilded mirrors and flower wreaths. His “muse,” Boyd Holbrook, even has pixie pink hair (although I suspect this particular Peter Pan left Neverland quite some time ago). For you, dear reader, we’ve picked a selection of portraits which are free from bed sheet, ruff and top hat.

  7. Main

    Where is the limit of what the camera can capture? Can the paranormal be pictured? So asks Alexander Gehring’s series Messages from the Darkroom, exploring photography’s ability to portray paranormal phenomena.

  8. Main8

    With over 600,000 snap happy visitors a year, you can imagine that Elvis Presley’s infamous Graceland mansion is pretty well documented. But it takes someone truly special to photograph something famous and still make it seem brand new, which is why we’re glad that Hedi Slimane – lover of rock and roll, and young, good-looking, rebellious men – took a trip to Elvis’ Memphis home late last year and brought his camera along.

  9. Main

    Stripped of snow, Ettore Moni’s alpine landscapes are scarred by access roads, crisscrossing electricity wires and ski lift cables. The raw beauty of his scenes is interrupted by ugly concrete buildings, plastic fencing and piles of pipes. If Maria and the von Trapps came skipping over these mountains, the sound of music would hit a rather discordant note.

  10. List

    This time last year Sam Bradley had just moved up to London to concentrate on his fashion photography – which we have to say, he was pretty damn good at. This year he’s still busy working away on fashion editorials, including a lovely shoot for the latest Wonderland, but he’s been getting outside a lot more, shooting mountaineers, skateboarders and racing drivers in a style so crisp you feel almost able to reach out and touch the scenes he’s captured. I’ll admit a certain bias towards photographers working in nature – I go mad for a mountain view – but Sam’s managed to make even tedious, high-budget motorsports look exciting and unusual, for which he deserves an enormous amount of praise.

  11. List

    When Rapha launched their brand ten years ago they did it with an exhibition on cycling history and a book that documented some of the greatest stars and stories of competitive road racing. The book showed candid shots of legendary riders like Fausto Coppi hanging out in his pyjamas and Bernard Hinault in a grump on the train, exposing these famous gents out of the saddle, carrying on like normal human beings. To celbrate their tenth anniversary Rapha have re-printed and re-released the book (no long out of print) upping the print and finish quality in the process. The results, we think you’ll agree, look pretty spectacular!

  12. Main8

    Whether catching a glimpse of a funeral ceremony over a black-clad shoulder or seeing young boys play football in dappled sunlight, Noah Rabinowitz’s beautiful images truly make you feel like you’re observing something intimate, something special.

  13. Pino

    Dino Ignani spent the early 1980s in many a “discoteche o video-bar" capturing the “dark” wave. From hanging out in cafés and bars with artists in Rome, he began to follow these newcomers with big barnets and kohl a-plenty to music events and club nights. He would create an ad-hoc set, and invite everyone there to have their portrait taken. The result is an enormous gallery of 400 images, mostly black and white, wonderfully random and totally intriguing. Who are these people?