Book Review | Afghanistan 2012 by Giles Duley

Text And Pictures by Derek Clark

On a cold morning in Feb 2011 Giles Duley was a documentary photographer covering the conflict in Afghanistan. While embedded with the American 101st Airborne, he stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and is now a triple amputee. Remarkably, Giles went back to Afghanistan in 2012 to face his demons and keep a promise he made to an Italian surgeon. This book tells the story of his return and is split into two halves, Words and Images.

Shar Madani has done a fantastic job in coming up with an original design for this book. The tan soft cover reminded me of an old school jotter. This is not an expensive production by any means and the book is actually held together by three staples down the main spine (on the images side) and two staples down the other spine (on the words side). This is not a negative though as the hand-made craft design gives the impression that you have something really special and unique in your hand. It's hard to describe the design in words, but the pictures included with this review will do the job for me. Basically you open the book to the right as you would any other and then open the words section to the left.

The Words section tells the story of Giles brave return to Afghanistan after stepping on an IED and losing multiple limbs. Giles was ironically due to start a project to document a hospital funded by the charity Emergency, a promise he made to Italian surgeon Gino Strada and a promise he kept by returning in 2012. The courage Giles faced by returning to the place that changed his life in such a dramatic way is absolutely astonishing.

The Images section of the book feature a selection of black and white and colour photographs of victims of war, especially IED's. Each picture is printed alone on the right hand page, while the corresponding number is printed on the left hand page. This is just as well as the paper is not the thickest stock, but the quality of the printing is still high. His pictures are from an Afghan hospital and some people might find them a little too graphic. One such picture shows a hand being held over a trash can to catch the blood. Only three fingers remain intact in what is clearly a fresh blast wound and all the more powerful being a colour shot.

These pictures would have been difficult for any photographer to capture, but to think that Giles was himself a victim of an IED just the year before, doesn't bear thinking of. Giles had nothing to prove to anybody by going back to Afghanistan, but obviously he had something to prove to himself. The courage to make this journey back to the place where he lost both legs and his left arm is almost beyond imagination.

Giles was kind enough to sign the book for me and also included a signed postcard too. A really nice personal touch and something else that make this book just that little bit more special. my copy is a first edition number 409 of 1500. I'm not sure if there was a second edition produced or if the book is still available, but if you are interested in purchasing Afghanistan 2012 you should contact Giles through his website at

Derek Clark

Documentary photographer based in Scotland, UK. Winner of UK professional Photographer of the Year 2012 in the News category and member of The Kage Collective.