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BBC looks at the work of disabled photographer Giles Duley

By dpreview staff on Sep 9, 2012 at 04:55 GMT

The BBC has published an interesting article examining the life and work of British photographer Giles Duley. Duley, a documentary photographer, lost both of his legs and one arm in an explosion near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2011, while on a patrol with US forces. He survived, and is currently covering the Paralympic Games in London. The article describes Duley's protracted recovery and the ways in which he has adapted to his new life as a triple-amputee in order to return to photography. 

According to Duley, one of the hardest things to cope with during his recovery was the 'strict military regime' at a specialist army hospital in the UK. 'I'm a very private person and suddenly my whole life was public, and all I wanted was my independence back. I couldn't even sit in a room on my own for almost a year.'

The article describes how Duley tried to recover a semblance of control over his life by picking up his camera again, and turning the lens on himself for a graphic self-portrait that he titles his 'Greek Statue' photograph.

'People who look at Greek statues never say it's a shame because they're not complete.' 

Giles Duley, who lost three limbs in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan in 2011, is back at work after a painful recovery, and is currently covering the Paralympic Games in London. 

Photo: Giles Duley 

After more than thirty operations to repair damage caused by the explosion, Duley is finally back at work, covering the work of the technicians that maintain the wheelchairs and prosthetics used by the competitors at this year's Paralympic Games. 

Duley is covering the works of the specialist technicians and prosthetists who maintain the equipment used by the para-atheletes in this year's Paralympic Games.

Photo: Giles Duley

Although realistic about the things he can no longer do, the BBC article describes Duley's belief that in the long run his work will be enriched by his disabilities. 'It means I'm going to have to focus even more on the connection with people. It's an unspoken art and an unspoken skill, but I'm convinced I'll be better than ever at that.'

Giles Duley at work at the 2012 Paralympic Games, in London.  

Photo: PA


Total comments: 27
By Bionic963 (Sep 11, 2012)

Would love to see a BTS video of him shooting. There are many maneuvers that able body people do with out even thinking about them. When missing a limb, a maneuver as simple as kneeling down to get a low angle shot becomes an amazing feat.... How does he maneuver quickly to get the "shot"? While looking through the veiwfinder can he walk backwards? Can he mange to shoot with 2 bodies? What is his technique to get really low angle shots? Does he need help standing back up if he has to sit on the ground? How does he handle going up stairs with equipment? Does he always need to shoot with an assistant? Does he have special prosthetics made that assist him with shooting? So many questions that I would love to know his answer to! :)

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
By AlliHjelm (Sep 10, 2012)

Inspiring story. What an amazing individual. Lost a finger myself two years ago and have had a rocky road to recovery. Seeing and reading about every day heroes like Giles really makes one realise that a "disability" is just a state of mind.

Keep on conquering the world Giles!

Paul Farace
By Paul Farace (Sep 10, 2012)

The human spirit... amazing and inspiring!

By Camediadude (Sep 10, 2012)

Great story, thanks.

Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Sep 10, 2012)

Duley might be a good consultant for camera controls and ergonomics: what cameras can operate well with one hand. Of course, left-handers will have (contrary?) opinions too.

Honestly, most people are more manually-challenged, when it comes to cameras than they dare admit. Auto mode saves more shots than it muffs.

Some people without impairments like to use their cameras with braces mounted to their chest and shoulders. A heavy lens can be hard to keep steady, even with two hands.

The A-Team
By The A-Team (Sep 10, 2012)


By leonahj123 (Sep 10, 2012)

Very moving

By MarkInSF (Sep 10, 2012)

And he's a really good photographer, too. I bet respect for his abilities is what he wants now, not respect with special credit for his lost limbs. He did get introduced to new subejct matter and equipment he would not have used, but his skill and dedication are unchanged, and those make him a photographer worth respect. OK, the self-portrait wouldn't have been possible pre-explosion, and it's a striking image, but I bet he could have made a fine one before, too.

Jack Simpson
By Jack Simpson (Sep 9, 2012)

Good stuff and continued good shooting :) .... if Mr. Duley checks out DPR :)

1 upvote
raimundo gaby
By raimundo gaby (Sep 9, 2012)

I encourage all of you to take a look at Giles' website.
The pictures speak for themselves, and evoke the tragic beauty of our world's realities. I am always touched by artist that understand the importance of using their talent to make a difference in our much needed messed up world.
A very touching, inspiring story. Thank you Giles.

By InterestedParty (Sep 9, 2012)

I am both humbled and inspired. But I understand that a life without a sense of purpose, however humble is may be, is not much of a life at all.

Pat Cullinan Jr
By Pat Cullinan Jr (Sep 9, 2012)


To me, the triumph lies in your refusal to bow to resentfulness, and your affirmation of God, joy, and life. God go with you, Giles Duley. And a heart-felt thanks for your incomparable generosity, sacrifice, and service to flag and neighbor.

By epo001 (Sep 9, 2012)

This man is neither ex-military nor does he ever mention religion. Take your primitive superstitions and fake-patriotism elsewhere. This brave man deserves more than your back-of-a-corflake-packet platitudes.

Comment edited 22 seconds after posting
By nz769r (Sep 9, 2012)

epo001: I think that you have a bigger problem with what Pat believes and what you don't versus what he wrote. By the way Pat's post doesn't reference the military at all.

By InTheMist (Sep 9, 2012)

He stepped on a land mine while on patrol as an attached photojournalist. He wasn't a soldier.

That doesn't minimize one bit the respect he's due. So many people would just quit.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
By Thorbard (Sep 10, 2012)

> By the way Pat's post doesn't reference the military at all.

"service to flag and neighbor [sic]" sure does imply military to me.

Amazing how many people think this guy was a soldier before a photographer. If anything he deserves more respect for what he has achieved as a western civilian in this situation.

By ManuelVilardeMacedo (Sep 9, 2012)

This man is an example of hard temper and strong will. It would be all to easy for him to give everything up, but his love of photography prompted him to overcome his physical limitations. Admirable beyond words.
Another photographer whose devotion to photography gave him the strength to proceed despite his adversities is my compatriot João Silva. He makes me very proud of sharing his nationality (which is double, portuguese and south african) and I hold him in the highest regard possible. There are people whose will is so strong they acquire the power to turn adversity in their favour. Giles Duley is one of them. And so is João Silva, who lost both legs in a mine explosion in Afghanistan. Giles, however, has had to overcome an even greater barrier for having lost an arm.
Giles' example is a powerful reminder of how intense the passion for photography can be. Which makes me love photography even more.

Antonio Rojilla
By Antonio Rojilla (Sep 9, 2012)

Becoming the Story

Al Cris
By Al Cris (Sep 9, 2012)

After the devastation...the man behind the camera rises...stands up...and smiles!Congratulations to Giles Duley, a life example. Thanks to DP and BBC.

Anthony Terrot
By Anthony Terrot (Sep 9, 2012)

Giles, simply I am in awe of people, like you, who have massively suffered and yet found direction on their own to have another go. From the rebound, I wish you every strength to find your new style. Its the picture that counts so I am sure going for lighter equipment won't cramp at least your creativity. A commercial photographer who rarely faces any danger, I admire the unimaginable courage of those who face it daily. You have obviously faced more than most, come through it, only to return to finish the job which is still not without considerable risks. So we all wish you safety in your endevour, great success in your mission and a long and rewarding (for us all) career. And I look forward to buy a book based on your work in the future. Best wishes.

By jon404 (Sep 9, 2012)

Can't keep a real photographer down!

By Funduro (Sep 9, 2012)

Sad situation that he'll be dealing with after the spot light is off. Oh yea the emotional trauma will be there forever, the physical affects will remind him every second that his body was mangled over a Sexed-up report, what we in the USA call a lie. Very happy he can still perform his life's passion.

Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Sep 9, 2012)

you're thinking of a different war.

By JKiely (Sep 9, 2012)

After watching a interview with him on channel 4, showing how he was working before the 'spotlight' I would say that it is what we in the UK call 'the truth'.

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Sep 10, 2012)

Barney Britton: "you're thinking of a different war."

Which? 2nd battle of the Marne? The '39 invasion of Poland? The "glorious" fight of the "mujahedin" against the Soviets? Retribution for 9/11 against its "Afghan" perpetrators? How many wars begin without a heavy element of hype? Or was "Johnny Got His Gun" just another Beatrix Potter story?

Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Sep 10, 2012)

"his body was mangled over a Sexed-up report" - the 'dodgy dossier' post-dates the conflict in Afghanistan.

1 upvote
Bashar Yassin
By Bashar Yassin (Sep 9, 2012)

Now that's a successful guy !. Nothing can stand against him .
Good job man i really wish you the best in your 100000 years life.
And for all of you guys : Never ever lose hope!

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
Total comments: 27