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Bomb-blast victim ponders a return to Afghanistan

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: September 14, 2012

AMAZING RECOVERY: East Coker-born photographer Giles Duley is back to work over a year after he was blown up in Afghanistan.

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A PHOTOGRAPHER who survived a devastating bomb blast in Afghanistan against the odds is considering a return to the war-torn country.

East Coker-born Giles Duley, 40, lost three limbs when he stepped on a mine while documenting American troops near Kandahar in February last year.

The blast blew off both of his legs, one above the knee and one below. Shrapnel tore through his left hand, arm and torso.

After the explosion he was flown back to the UK and spent 45 days in intensive care. On two occasions, his family were called to his bedside to say their final goodbyes.

He spoke to the Western Gazette this week after his first assignment since suffering the life-changing injuries.

Fresh from taking pictures at the Paralympic Games, the photographer told of his urge to return to humanitarian work.

He said: "The next stage is I need to carry on with my rehab, getting strength on my legs and a couple more operations. Then after that, head back overseas to carry on the humanitarian work. I'm not sure whether that's Afghanistan or Africa.

"I remember the first time I went to Afghanistan. I was fully aware of all the risks. In a sense nothing's changed. I would be stupid to say I wasn't aware the first time and I would be stupid to say I'm not aware if there's a next time.

"It's not so much about going back to Afghanistan than it is about getting back to my work and my passion. I hope, in some small way, to make people aware of what's going on in these places."

Mr Duley said it was a "privilege" to be involved in the Paralympics. He was asked by Ottobock – which provided technical support to the Paralympics – to document technicians and prosthetists who maintain the wheelchairs and artificial limbs used by Para-athletes.

He added: "From the day I was blown up, the thing that's kept me going is I wanted my life back – to get myself fully independent and get myself mobile and back at work. In the last few months, I have been able to get back living independently, and the last piece of the jigsaw was being able to work.

"At the time I was still in a wheelchair so I wasn't sure but it gave me a goal.

"It was very inspirational for someone that's relatively new to injuries like mine to see those who have been living without limbs and how incredibly capable they are.

"Most people who have a disability, you're always told what you can't do. My personal experience was the same. The Paralympics represent what you can do and I think that's a refreshing change."

Mr Duley, who gained a reputation as an internationally-acclaimed freelance photographer, said it has been a "struggle" learning how to use his prosthetic legs and how to use a camera one-handed.

Most recently, he turned the camera on himself and produced a striking Greek statue-style self-portrait showing his injuries and scarring. He said he wanted to photograph himself as if he still had limbs.

He said: "I was thinking about Roman and Greek statues. People talk about how beautiful they are, even though they often have things missing. I liked the idea of doing that.

"Eighteen months ago people were telling me I would probably need a carer, so to be in a position to be able to work again feels like a huge victory for me."

Speaking from the Duley's family home in East Coker, his father Ray said: "We feel very proud of him. I am amazed by him and those with similar injuries by how they can cope. I hope that if I found myself in a similar situation I would be able to cope as well but I am not sure I could."

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