Photographer's stark images capture lives of refugees

In his book "I can only tell you what my eyes see," published in London this week, Giles Duley turns his lens on those uprooted by war and persecution.

 

An Afghan mother hugs her child and weeps with relief on arrival on the Greek island of Lesvos.  © UNHCR/Giles Duley

LONDON – Photographer Giles Duley travelled to countries in the Middle East and Europe in 2015 and 2016 documenting the refugee crisis, in partnership with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

The resulting images, shot on celluloid film mostly in black and white giving them a timeless quality, have been assembled and published as a book, I can only tell you what my eyes see.

Duley is renowned for his humanitarian photographic work. It has taken him into the lives of men, women and children uprooted by war and persecution, yet who resolutely make the most of their lives.

“Giles has pictured their encounters with a new reality, that of life as a refugee – walking, grieving, playing, resting, questioning, teaching, thinking. Trying to survive, seeking ways to rebuild their lives,” United Nations High Commissioner Filippo Grandi writes in the introduction. “The result is a collection of images of powerful and arresting intimacy. 

Duley is himself a war survivor. He lost both legs and his left arm in 2011 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device, or IED, while photographing U.S. troops on patrol in Afghanistan. The blast nearly killed him

He dedicated the book to a Syrian girl, Aya, who has spina bifida, and Khouloud, a Syrian refugee mother paralysed from the neck down by a sniper’s bullet. He met and photographed them with their families in Lebanon where they lived as refugees in makeshift tents. These meetings were a turning point for him.

“When everybody else had given up on me, they were the first to believe in me, that I can tell their stories,” he explained.  “They were the ones that gave me my life back. In some small way, I hope this book does that for them.”

The book I can only tell you what my eyes see is published by Saqi Books.  All profits are donated to UNHCR to protect the rights and well-being of refugees all over the world. His photos will be exhibited at the Old Truman Brewery gallery in London in October 2017.

Book launch: "I can only tell you what my eyes see"

Photographer Giles Duley launches his new book "I can only tell you what my eyes see" documenting the refugee crisis in 2015-2016.  © UNHCR/Marjanna Bergman