When Giles Duley left behind life as a music and fashion photographer and began criss-crossing the globe, photographing forgotten people — those with mental illness, living on the streets, residing in refugee camps and surviving in the crossfire of war — he felt a certain level of separation from his subjects. But then something happened that brought him into the story he was telling about suffering and survival. While in Afghanistan, Duley stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He lost both his legs and an arm.
“At first, I was devastated by what had happened. I thought my work was over. [Nothing made] sense to me,” says Duley in a powerful, must-watch talk from TEDxObserver. “It was the stories I’ve documented that inspired me to get through the last year. To survive. To get back up on my new legs and to come tell their stories but also my own … To show that losing your limbs doesn’t end your life.”
Above, see a self-portrait Duley snapped in 2011. And below, see just a few of the people who inspired Duley to keep going.
“Nick, living with Autism, 2008.”
Nick described his daily life as “living downstairs as a party.” He and Duley struck up a friendship while Duley served as his caregiver. In this photograph, Duley photographs Nick hitting himself.
“The family of Prymorska Street, Odessa, Ukraine, 2010.”
Odessa guidebooks suggest “do not talk to the street kids,” but Duley lived with these homeless teens in a squat while photographing them and describes them as “great kids.”
“Rohingya Refugee Portraits, Bangladesh, 2009.”
Forgotten in a refugee camp for the past 20 years, the Rohingya people lined up to have their portraits taken, amazed that their story was being told. This is Fatima, then age 10, with her younger brother Noru.
“IOM/UNHCR, Angola, 2008.”
Born in the refugee camps of Zambia, these children now find themselves outsiders within their own country.
“MSF in South Sudan, 2009.”
This young Nuer boy is one of the 110,000 Sudanese refugees being treated by MSF, otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, who Duley encountered on a trip with the nonprofit.