Giles Duley

Boy Playing Cricket, Kutupalong Refugee Camp, Bangladesh, 2009


Giles Duley’s photographs are framed in a stillness that doesn’t kill.  One captures a boy playing cricket in a refugee camp in Bangladesh.  His outsize bat disappears in a shimmer as he waves it in anticipation, but the rest of his body, above all his eyes, are alert, frozen with expectation.  One senses that Duley is like that when he takes a picture, pouncing on the moment that sums things up, makes life complete, shows us what we are.

Giles Duley was born in London in 1971 and earned a living first as a photographer for the fashion and music industries before deciding to work for international charities such as MSF, IOM and UNHCR.  In 2011, while on patrol with the United States Army in Afghanistan, he stepped on a homemade bomb and lost both legs and an arm.  Photography played an important part in his recovery, as he explained. ‘When I was still in intensive care, I had an idea in my head of a photo I wanted to take – a self-portrait.  I could see it so clearly. It was in my head for months. I called the idea my ‘broken statue image’. I wanted to take a portrait that didn’t hide the reality of my injuries, but also didn’t show me as a victim.  When thinking about it I realised I wanted to photograph myself the way I had photographed others. This was to be the first photo I would take following my injuries, nearly nine months to the day after it happened.  When I took the self-portrait I felt I had crossed a threshold of accepting my injuries. This is me, and once again I am a photographer.’

Once, while photographing sick people queuing for treatment in a refugee camp, Duley remarked to a community leader that he hoped they didn’t think he was a doctor.  ‘They know ,’ he said, ‘but for now a photographer is all they have.  At least you can show people.’  Why is seeing clearly and showing what we see so important to us?  This human need is profoundly mysterious, but it is one that governments have to protect and nurture as a priority.   

For more information please visit Giles’s website:

Becoming the Story, Self-Portrait London 2012-09-04