For ten years, Giles Duley worked as an editorial fashion and music photographer, working for such publications as GQ, Vogue, Esquire, Arena and Select Magazine. He photographed the likes of Kings of Leon, Oasis, Mariah Carey, The Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz and Christian Bale. His portrait of Marilyn Manson was voted by Q Magazine as one of the “Greatest Rock Photographs Of All Time.”
However, in 2000, after having become increasingly disillusioned with celebrity culture and feeling unfulfilled, Duley famously “threw” his cameras from the window of a hotel and walked away from the industry. He left London and moved to Hastings where he searched to redefine himself, setting himself many personal challenges including completing the infamous Marathon des Sables (the world’s “hardest race”). Eventually, Duley found work as a full-time carer for Nick, a young man with profound autism. Their meeting was the start of a long and continuing friendship and, ironically, marked the beginning of Duley’s return to photography. Duley discovered that through documenting Nick’s life, he was able to obtain the appropriate support and care for him, and to give him a voice that had previously been unheard. Duley therefore decided to restart his photographic career, using his camera to document the lesser-known stories of human suffering and resilience.
In the following decade, Duley continued to work as a carer to fund trips to countries including Angola, Ukraine, South Sudan and Bangladesh. He photographed the work of non-government organisations (NGO) such as the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), Emergency, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and documented the lives and stories of people whom he describes as “not victims but victims of circumstance.” In 2010, Duley was nominated for an Amnesty International Media Award and he was a winner at the Prix de Paris in both 2010 and 2012.
In 2011, the opportunity arose for Duley to document two sides of the conflict in Afghanistan; to tell the stories of civilians injured in the fighting but also to record the experiences of men serving with the US 101st Airborne division. Duley was to “become the story” after he stepped on an Improved Explosive Device (IED) whilst on patrol. He never lost consciousness, aware that both his legs and his left-arm had been immediately blown away. As he recalls, “I could see bits of my legs and boxer shorts in the tree above and so I knew it didn’t look good.”
Duley spent the following year in and out of hospital, undergoing over 30 operations and spending 42 days in intensive care. On numerous occasions it was thought he would not survive. However, with his characteristic grit and determination, Duley did survive and resumed his photographic work less than 18 months later. His first assignment was a self-portrait which was selected for the 2012 Taylor Wessing Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. He has also had two exhibitions at the KK Gallery in London. In October 2012, Duley went back to Afghanistan to “finish the story I started.” His return was the subject of a documentary, Walking Wounded: Return to the Frontline, which has since won the Association for International Broadcasting (AIB) Award for Best International Current Affairs Documentary and the Foreign Press Association (FPA) Award for TV Documentary Story of the Year.
Duley has become a popular speaker, delivering talks about his experiences and those of the people he has photographed to a range of audiences. He has spoken at national and international events, including the TEDx (London), 5x15 (London and Brighton), Chicago Ideas Week, Bellinzola Photofestival (Switzerland), Frontline Club (London), Borris House Festival (Ireland), It’s Nice That (London), Ottobock Conference (Birmingham), Hasselblad Conference (London) and Fabrica (Italy). His TEDx talk was voted one of the top ten TED talks of 2012 and he was recently invited as a keynote speaker at the Houses of Parliament.