My Greek Island Home by Claire Lloyd

published in: Interviews, Books, Photography By Despina Pavlaki, 27 November 2012

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'My Greek Island Home' by Claire Lloyd, book cover
photo © Penguin, Australia

Although most Greeks have been raised on a steady diet of sea and sun, it sometimes takes a fresh pair of eyes to appreciate the true value of both. Photographer Claire Lloyd’s long-standing affair with the island of Lesvos - also known as Mytilene- now shows us the way. Using the simplest and most humble ingredients - the tangy island breeze and the sparkle of the midday sun - she has drawn a timeless impression of Greece that we are now happy to call our own.

Using breathtaking photography and a smattering of carefully chosen words, she tells the story of how she regained her sense of balance in an isolated village somewhere in the Aegean. However, her new book, 'My Greek Island Home' published by Penguin Australia, is much more than the sum of its parts: Lloyd has somehow managed to distill all the memorable parts of our sun-drenched childhoods, everything we forgot to treasure while growing up, serving it up in a weighty tome that feels like home!

Claire Lloyd, photo © Matthew Usmar Lauder

Hailing from faraway Australia, but having made a life for herself in rainy old London, Claire Lloyd was a busy artist, designer and photographer, in danger of becoming a victim of her own success. Seemingly thriving on her volatile urban existence, it took a chance encounter with a place that time forgot, to make her realize that she needed to stand still. From a random conversation all the way through to her final destination, 'My Greek Island Home' retraces the steps that changed her life in a book that openly expresses a sense of gratitude. And if an artist of her caliber is so thankful to be here, then maybe so should we!

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

Yatzer posed a series of questions to clarify the finer points of Lloyd’s island life:
Was it a conscious choice to document your life in Mytilene or was the book more of a 'happy accident'?
Initially, it started with overzealous photography but I found quite quickly that I was enjoying documenting the beautiful life Matthew, my partner, and I were living in a very welcoming village community. My first book ‘Sensual Living’ was published in 1998 and since then many people have asked when I would do another. This book wasn’t planned. I was introduced to Julie Gibbs, a publisher at Penguin Lantern, and she encouraged me to write about something I loved. There was no hesitation, it had to be something from the heart, it had to be what I was experiencing and it had to be Lesvos.

Does photography always permeate your personal life?
Whenever something moves me, I reach for my camera.
I could be in the middle of cooking a meal or making my bed and be inspired by food, light or any small detail.
My camera is also my companion and prop in all sorts of social situations. It’s really a great help when I am invited to a local wedding or a christening and only Greek is spoken. It enables me to capture really intimate moments.
I am not the sort of person who carries a camera with me all the time. In fact I very often say 'I wish I had my camera.'

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

What were the locals’ reactions when they saw their image staring back at them in 'My Greek Island Home'?
The locals loved seeing themselves in the book. I think they were really touched. It proved to be a major talking point and a source of great amusement! I think it was lovely for them to see something so complete. The book itself has documented the village and by the time it was published a few of the characters featured in it had died so it was a lovely reminder of those who had passed.

Has the credit crunch affected the ambiance of your little village?
Our village is very self-sufficient. The locals are tenacious and they often do more than one job. It’s a rural village so they grow a lot of their own food. We often receive a bag of fresh produce on our doorstep and don’t know who to thank! Everyone looks out for each other. This is one of the things I love about community living. The main thing affected by the credit crunch is the infrastructure. We used to have a full-time doctor in the village but now we just get occasional visits. It’s not really obvious; our village friends still go about their daily lives with a sense of Greek humor and Greek generosity.

spread from 'My Greek Island Home'
photographs © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

spread from 'My Greek Island Home'
photo © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

I dread spending time on the islands in the winter! The darkness is so thick and oppressive I sometimes think the sun will never rise again! How do you keep yourself busy?
Winter can be very long, very damp and very dark. It is also very, very cold and from time to time we get snow.
We found out about the snow by accident whilst we were renovating the house and a lucky thing too, otherwise we would not have central heating installed and that is something I could not live without. I also have an electric blanket and a cat or two to keep me cozy! Being Australian I have always traveled home in December and January so I am in the sunshine for those months. February, March and April can be difficult but we have friends and fires and there is always something to do. I keep up my Greek lessons and have more time to dedicate to that. We walk the dogs and I continue to document life. I am filming a lot too. It’s a good time to reflect. I love it when we get piercing blue skies; we dress well and walk along the beach with the dogs.

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

spread from 'My Greek Island Home'
photographs © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

'My Greek Island Home' goes above and beyond your run-of-the-mill photography book. It's beautiful to hold, it's beautiful to read and it's beautiful to look at. How involved were you with the final product?
That was always my aim. I was completely involved in the final product. With all the experience I have gained across so many mediums throughout my career it made sense for me to be involved in every part. I photographed, graded and edited all the images when I was in Lesvos. I also wrote the book there and did rough page layouts.
I then went to Sydney where I worked with Evi from Penguin Lantern putting all the pages together. Paper was important as I wanted it to reflect the texture of the landscape and add another dimension to the photographs. I wanted the book to look very personal, so the cover was crucial. There was no one image in the book that summed it up. I felt the cover should be something graphic like wallpaper. Evi came up with the cover pattern and as soon as I saw it I knew it felt right for the book. I then chose a pink tape bookmark. For me it’s important that the book touches every one of the readers’ senses. I hope it has.

page from 'My Greek Island Home'
photographs © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

page from 'My Greek Island Home'
photographs © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

page from 'My Greek Island Home'
photographs © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

page from 'My Greek Island Home'
photo © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

page from 'My Greek Island Home'
photo © Claire Lloyd, Image Courtasy of Penguin, Australia

photo from Claire Lloyd's archive, © Claire Lloyd

sources:

Penguin Books Australia, Claire Lloyd

  • friend
    Matthew Usmar Lauder | 2012-11-27 23:17:45

    Fantastic article!

  • friend
    maria katsori | 2012-11-28 15:54:32

    i like this article, contains everything i need to know about greek islands.

  • friend
    Spyros Theodoratos | 2012-11-29 01:18:55

    Congratulations! Such a human, vivid, intuitive article about this beautiful Greek island... A life full of meaning & wisdom... As a citizen of Greece, a country that suffers so much because of unemployment and financial crisis, I really have to thank Claire Lloyd for her special work and for loving this place...

  • friend
    John Iakovidis | 2012-11-30 10:42:15

    I love Greece..I love your photos

  • friend
    Claire Lloyd | 2012-12-02 13:43:32

    I'm so thrilled you like the photos

  • friend
    Theodore Ntafopoulos | 2012-12-07 00:47:29

    Very good.. Where can i buy that book??

  • friend
    claire lloyd | 2012-12-07 22:04:22

    you can go online and get it from my website or booktopia online also sells it ENJOY!

  • friend
    Francesca Muir | 2012-12-10 13:07:48

    I have just read her book and it is wonderful and this insight into Claire just finishes off a magical experience. Deliciously Greek ! Thank you.

  • friend
    Katerina | 2013-01-01 11:20:27

    She has cuptured the heart, the feelings, the soul of the living organism of the island, similar to so many other greek islands, I burst in to tears living the present situation in Greece. The spine of this nation is robust and strong, it is time to work and flourish! Thank you Ms Lloyd.

  • friend
    Sam moore | 2013-04-25 15:52:55

    Wonderful post. A picture is worth than thousands words. Photography is indeed the best way to express your feelings and depicts the era. I love photography and look over the web for finding useful stuff for the same. I came across your blog and after subscribing in my feeder I hope you will keep on the good posts like this continuously. Thank You

  • friend
    Sam moore | 2013-05-14 10:13:53

    Wonderful post. A picture is worth than thousands words. Photography is indeed the best way to express your feelings and depicts the era. I love photography and look over the web for finding useful stuff for the same. I came across your blog and after subscribing in my feeder I hope you will keep on the good posts like this continuously. Thanks You

  • friend
    Tine Murrath | 2013-12-14 19:34:12

    Dear ms. Lloyd, I really love those photographs and it's a pity I didn't learn about your book sooner. My husband is from Petri but we live in Belgium for the time being... In which village do you live ?

  • friend
    EFSTRATIA | 2014-08-28 13:36:01

    Dear Mrs Loyd I think it's the best book ever. I am from Mytilene from the village Molyvos! The photographs describe exactly our beautiful island!

  • friend
    Kuriaki | 2014-09-21 18:30:07

    Your article and your photos are awesome! You are making us proud! Thank you!

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