Humanity Through a Lens: The Work of Photographer Giles Duley Part 3 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 and part 2 here. 


A patient in the gardens at our Kabul Surgical Center in Afghanistan. Duley believes this photo “Encapsulates the philosophy of EMERGENCY: the fact that they are not just hospitals, but that they are oases of calm.” Photo credit: Giles Duley

After recovering from his injuries, Giles Duley was committed to returning to Afghanistan to visit and document the Kabul Surgical Center where he originally planned on going before the accident. He also recognized the unique opportunity in the situation: “When I was injured, I knew that the next story I did would get a lot more attention because of what happened to me. It was in many ways an opportunity and I hope it says something about my feelings towards EMERGENCY that out of every story I could possibly do, it was EMERGENCY I chose to document because I hoped that it would give them just a little bit more attention. That really is the respect that I have for them and I hope everyone else will have.”

The journey back into photography wasn’t painless, especially when it coincided with a return to the country where he’d almost lost his life. Initially Duley had doubts on his photography skills and his ability to authentically communicate the experiences of those coming into the Kabul Surgical Center. While there, however, he found that he had new avenue for empathy that allowed him to reach these patients on a deeper level: “On the plus side, my new condition is creating a connection I have never experienced before. I find myself in long discussions with those who have recently lost limbs or are about to, relaying my own experiences.”


Sediqullah, whose hands were damaged when a fuse he picked up exploded, receives treatment at our Kabul Surgical Center. Photo credit: Giles Duley

One of the patients Duley met was a young boy named Sediqullah. Sediqullah had picked up a fuse that then exploded in his hands, injuring them. Giles grew close to Sediqullah and the boy asked him if he would accompany him into the operating room for the procedure on his hands. Duley recounts the moment, “As they wheel Sediqullah into the theatre you can see that same pride and dignity in his face. He looks at me and smiles. As he is put on the operating table, they lay his injured arms out, and although I can tell he is scared and in pain, he stares at the ceiling with a sense of defiance. I raise my camera and take a few frames before giving him a thumbs-up and a smile while the anesthetic takes effect. I watch most of the operation and then leave to talk to his father. He wants to know how bad the hand injuries are. I am possibly one of the few people in the world who is in a position to say, ‘It’s OK. He’s just lost the ends of a few fingers. It’s nothing.’ Once more his father roars with laughter and puts his arm around me.”

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 child victims of war in Afghanistan like Sediqullah receive treatment their injuries, click here to donate now.

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