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Regulars / Bookshelf

Humanist photographer Giles Duley on his favourite photo books

“Where do I start with books? I love books. I love being surrounded by them and when I travel it’s the thing I miss most about home,” says documentary photographer Giles Duley known for his striking shots taken in the middle of war-torn places and the impact such destruction has on civilians. “Like old friends, the books are revisited, shared, reminders, ideas, and none more than my photo books. I’ve always struggled with words, but photography is my language and where I find comfort and happiness.”

For the past decade Giles has been photographing the impact of war and has worked with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, which has seen him travel to Lebanon, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern Ireland, Gaza, Greece, Germany and Finland. Our feature with him back in January discusses this ongoing project and the personal journey he’s been on. His recent photo book One Second of Light
, gathers together images Giles has taken from 2005 to 2015, and gives even more insight into his background but also highlights his sharpness and brilliance as a photographer.

During his career Giles has shifted from fashion photography to chronicling humanitarian stories that are difficult to tell. We were eager to find out who’s inspired and moved him along the way and it comes as no surprise that the books and stories he’s been drawn to are shot by some of the biggest names in the field. “I scoured the shelves thinking ‘I should be going of the unusual and obscure – but it’s the old favourites I returned to,” he explains. “Maybe some are clichéd, but to me they are masters for reasons. I’ve been a photographer for over 20 years and these books have kept me company and inspired me on that journey.”

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Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970 – 1990
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Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970 – 1990
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Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970 – 1990

Annie Leibovitz: Photographs 1970 – 1990

Honestly I can’t stand the photographer she’s become, but her early work is everything rock and roll photography should be. It was the first photography book I owned and you can see how worn and read it is. When friends come around and we are up drinking and playing records – this is the book I always get out!

My sister bought it for me when I was 20 and had just started photographing bands. It was all I wanted to be as a music photographer – the photos of the Rolling Stones crumpled in their rooms while on tour, Hunter S Thompson in moments of madness, John Lennon curled in a foetal position next to Yoko Ono the morning of the day he was killed. It’s a book of an era, a lost time.

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Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967

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Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967

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Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967

Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967

For me the best long-form photographic essay ever made. I re-read this book again and again and always gain something more. It’s so powerful, intimate and tender. 

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Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous

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Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous

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Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous

Walker Evans: Labor Anonymous

For me Walker Evans is the master. He could do it all, and did it all before most had even thought of it. He changed styles, experimented, yet always stayed true to his humanity. I could have picked half a dozen books by him, but Labor Anonymous gets it. It was shot in 1946 and yet it is still so modern and relevant. It’s a series of 50 images shot as workers in Detroit walked to work. A simple background, the camera never moves and most don’t even see the camera – all studies of the facial expressions and postures of life. Amazing.

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Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang

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Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang

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Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang

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Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang

Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang

I’ve been a music photographer, a fashion photographer, a documentary photographer – if I could combine all three I’d get this book. Its just cool. Timeless.

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Avedon & Baldwin: Nothing Personal

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Avedon & Baldwin: Nothing Personal

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Avedon & Baldwin: Nothing Personal

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Avedon & Baldwin: Nothing Personal

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Avedon & Baldwin: Nothing Personal

Avedon & Baldwin: Nothing Personal

Again for me Avedon is a master and this is my favourite collection. Controversial when it came out in 1964, it’s an eclectic collection of images from Civil Rights protestors to celebrities and grainy documentary. The book is a photographic statement on America drawn together with text by James Baldwin. Like Walker Evans, Avedon could do it all. I am constantly inspired by this book, Avedon could strip photographs down to their most basic form, yet say so much.