The renowned photo-journalist, Giles Clarke, 54, was educated at Ryde School and brought up in the rural tranquility of Tapnell Farm in West Wight. He currently lives in Harlem in New York.

Giles’ award winning work for Getty Images and the United Nations has seen him travel to conflict zones on every continent. He has reported on conflict and disaster in such places as Libya, Somalia, Haiti, El Salvador and Turkmenistan. His photographs have been published by, amongst others, the Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Paris Match and Time.

The Islander caught up with Giles in Newport to ask him about his life and work. 

Giles said: “When I left school, I didn’t know what to do. I first moved to Berlin, where I became a stage hand. It was there that I first became involved in film. I then became a fashion and advertising photographer in London. After this, I moved to New York. I have been freelance since 2008.”

When asked what motivated him to travel the world taking images of famine, war and human misery, Giles said: “Telling stories with a camera is what I do. My images highlight an issue. My aim is to shed light on all the stuff that is under-reported. I try to get close to where the real problems are. Pleasant stuff bores me. I’m not into stereotypical beauty.”

Giles’ work is often dangerous, as he focuses on images that authorities often don’t want to draw attention to. He said: “When I’m on my own, I travel light, keep a low profile and move quickly. I’ve sometimes had to negotiate safe passage out of some tricky situations.”

On his political views, he said: “I’m not left-wing. I’m more of a humanitarian. All the bad stuff around the world is caused by politicians and the deregulation of the environment.

“I like to highlight stories of organisations and individuals defending our environment. I believe in global warming. I take the views of scientists more seriously than the words of politicians.”

Giles emphasised that in today’s global village we are all interconnected and interdependent. He continued: “Even here on the Isle of Wight, we are implicated in the Saudi Arabian proxy war in Yemen, as BAE Systems in Cowes make the navigation equipment that is used to drop bombs there.”

Although he has found fame as a photo-journalist on the world stage, he still has a sentimental attachment to his Island roots, adding: “I love the Isle of Wight and come back four times a year. The landscape of West and South Wight is really important to me, especially the Military Road from Freshwater to Blackgang. All that I need is here. One day, I’ll move back. On my own agenda.”

In the meantime, Giles has returned to his Isle of Wight roots to mount an exhibition, Selected Stories, which will be on display at Quay Arts until September 14.

Colin Clarke
Author: Colin Clarke