THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF JOAN LEIGH FERMOR: ARTIST AND LOVER
edited by Olivia Stewart and Ian Collins

Elusive, enigmatic and beautiful, Joan Leigh Fermor (1914-2003) was also one of the finest photographers of her time. Although hailed and hired by John Betjeman and Cyril Connolly from the 1930s, and a remarkable recorder of the London Blitz, she most excelled in pictures of unspoilt Greece taken between 1945 and 1960 as visual notes and with no thought of publication. The scale of her achievement was only discovered after death in 2003. What emerges in her wide-ranging work is an eye of immense subtlety and empathy, as well as an entire absence of ego. The artist’s ease is reciprocated in the faces of Cretan shepherds, Meteoran monastics and Macedonian bear tamers. Her vision is intimate in portraiture and architecture, panoramic in landscape and most firmly focused in an abiding love of Greece. The archive of 5,000 images now in the National Library of Scotland — and partly introduced in this monograph — reveals, at long last, a 20th-century photographer of significance.

Ian Collins is an art writer and curator. His books include monographs on John Craxton, John McLean and Rose Hilton and his recent exhibitions have been staged at the British Museum and Sainsbury Centre in Norwich. Olivia Stewart was a close a friend of Joan and Paddy Leigh Fermor. She is currently director of the BellRock Script Lab and literary executor for the Paddy Leigh Fermor Estate.

Publication Date: 24 May 2018
RRP: £25
298 pp
HB
ISBN: 9781910376942

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‘The photographs of Joan Leigh Fermor’s Greek life unsurprisingly betray the gaze of the traveller, the scholar and the artist: bacchanalian dance figures meet architectural views and dramatic light-shade effects. Her compositions depart from the sublime arrangements of Frédéric Boissonnas and are rarely stylised like Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive instants’. All too often the frame is close and the subject matters are approached with familiarity and sympathy, especially if they are human. Life bursts through the cracks of Leigh Fermor’s tableaux vivants; gestures and facial expressions allow connections to be intimated, stories to be deciphered. The visual meets the narrative and a smile lurks behind the camera’s click.’
— George Manginis, Academic Director, Benaki Museum, Athens