Journalism is a uniquely powerful force for good. It can capture the extremes of horror and beauty. It can evoke the deepest of emotions. It can change lives and horrific realties through the telling of stories. This, I believe to be true.
In the past two years journalism has, in the metaphorical sense, taken a serious beating. It’s reputation and status has been dragged through the mire, it’s integrity scrutinised and it’s role as a force for good questioned. In certain cases, this has been for good reason. Journalistic practices undertaken by certain people and publications, such as the News of the World, violated trust and betrayed the high ideals to which journalism should always aspire. Confidence in the honesty of the profession has been diminished.
As with any profession, any ideal, any system, despite the presence of those who undermine, take advantage and corrupt, there are always those who exemplify and embody what is the very best. For anyone who has lost their faith in journalism and journalists, the story, work and words of Giles Duley will restore it. He is a man, and his a story, that is a demonstration of the good that journalism can do. His journey personifies the vocational nature, and the element of a “calling” that lies at the core of a true journalist – much the same as Don McCullin, Tim Hetherington and James Nachtwey.
Giles Duley started out on his career aged 17 when, following a car accident in the US, an Olympus OM10 Camera came into his possession by way of inheritance from his godfather. From this point onwards he began to take photos of his friends in bands and his obvious talent quickly led to work for GQ, Vogue, Disney and others besides – his portrait of Marilyn Manson being recognized as one of the best rock photographs of all time. The shallowness and, possibly, unfulfilling nature of the fashion photography industry eventually led to a reassessment and drastic change of direction in his career though. This change has led GIles Duley down a path that, in the paradoxical way that life happens, has seen his greatest successes, his greatest work, and his greatest suffering.
On 7 February 2011, whilst working on a project about the affects of the war in Afghanistan on young soldiers, and working closely with the US 1st Squadron of the 75th Cavalry Regiment, a landmine explosion caused him horrific injuries and led to his losing both arms and his left leg. The speed and degree of his recovery is testament to the will, courage, and maintaining of perspective that is ever-present in his work. He is now back working, using a device which attaches a camera to his arm and allows him to continue shooting.
It is not just this incident that defines Giles Duley and his work though, it is not just for this that he should restore your faith in the “good” of journalism, nor is it solely the reason he is such an inspiration to me. When changing to a more humanitarian focus in his work, he worked full-time as a carer, sometimes pulling 24-hour shifts and not seeing friends, in order to pay to travel to work where there were humanitarian problems. He quit fashion photography because of its shallowness. Love for his girlfriend and his belief in the importance of continuing to tell the stories he had begun in Afghanistan has been a key motivator in his recovery. He has a devotion to his trade and a deep-seated belief in the importance and power of journalism to provoke positive change in our world.
Look at his work (featured in this article) and be inspired, as I have been, by this man.