Humanity Through a Lens: The Work of Photographer Giles Duley Part 2 of 4

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Humanity Through a Lens: The Work of Photographer Giles Duley Part 2 of 4

On Friday, February 20th at 6:30pm at the Variety Screening Room (Hobart Building) in San Francisco, EMERGENCY USA will be screening Walking Wounded: Return to the Front Line, a documentary film about London-based photographer and EMERGENCY UK trustee Giles Duley‘s return to Afghanistan for the first time after losing three of his limbs to an IED the year before. Giles and director Siobhan Sinnerton will be there for the reception and Q&A. Click here for tickets.

In order to provide context and draw attention to Duley’s incredible career, we’ll be highlighting his many accomplishments in a four part series leading up to the screening on February 20th. You can read part 1 here. Check back next Wednesday for part 3.

Giles Duley met Gino Strada while documenting patients at EMERGENCY‘s Salam Center for Cardiac Surgery in Khartoum, Sudan. While there, Strada detailed the situation surrounding civilian victims of war arriving at EMEREGENCY‘s Surgical Center in Kabul to Duley. Duley describes his reaction: “I’ve always said that if I get somewhere and there’s another photographer there already, I’m in the wrong place. My main interest has been the untold stories of human suffering around the world. However, as Gino explained, with his typical Italian passion, about the plight of civilians caught up in the years of conflict, I realized it was a story I had heard little of. So I resolved at that point to go and document EMERGENCY‘s work there, and I made that promise to Gino.”

Duley traveled to Afghanistan in 2011. Before heading to the Surgical Center in Kabul, he embedded himself within a group of US soldiers in the First Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment in order to document all sides of the conflict. While joining the squadron on a patrol, he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device), which detonated below him and destroyed sections of his limbs. He was quickly evacuated by a medivac team and eventually transferred to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, UK.


Becoming the Story, Self Portrait — Giles Duley’s first photograph after he was injured. “When I took the self-portrait I felt as if I had crossed a threshold of accepting my injuries,” he explains, “This is me, and once again I am a photographer.”

Initially Duley struggled with the reality of being a triple amputee and the limitations it imposed. He progressed through it, however, by recognizing his progress as a series of achievable goals: “when I sat up unaided in my bed for the first time, that seemingly simple task felt like the greatest victory,” he explains, “and from that point I knew I could make it.” Duley defines himself as a photographer and he progressed through his recovery in order to resume the work that he does: “Each goal was reached and ticked off until there was just one left; the most important and the most challenging. I was determined to keep my promise to Gino; to return to Afghanistan and finish the project I had started…Each day I cope with my injuries; they act as a reminder that in the world there are thousands suffering from similar injuries yet without the medical and emotional support I have. They suffer without voices, and, thankfully, despite everything that’s happened to me, I remain capable of telling their stories. How could I not carry on with that work?”

Duley’s book “Afghanistan, 2012,” a photo-journal from his return to Afghanistan featuring photos of our Surgical Center in Kabul, is available for purchase here.

To help more victims of war in Afghanistan survive and recover from their injuries, click here to donate now.

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