Leros
Alex MajoliThu 06 May 2004 - Sat 05 Jun 2004
'Leros' opened to coincide with the inaugural PhotoLondon fair in May 2004. The Greek island of Leros was for more than 20 years the site of the world's most notorious and brutal asylum for the insane. Alex Majoli photographed its inmates, following them in their return to the real world, and their integration back into society.
'Leros' opened to coincide with the inaugural PhotoLondon fair in May 2004. The Greek island of Leros was for more than 20 years the site of the world's most notorious and brutal asylum for the insane. Alex Majoli photographed its inmates, following them in their return to the real world, and their integration back into society.

When the Greek psychiatric medical establishment reached the end of their perfunctorily useful treatment of their patients they sent them to Leros, and the asylum set up in the former political prison there. The staff were not doctors or nurses and had no medical training, other than herding goats. They were local islanders, and were used as guards, or filaks.



The guards quickly degenerated into thugs, who sought to control the madmen with the only methods available to them - brute force and terror. The inmates were systematically beaten, even tortured, and crushed of whatever sensibilities they once had. They became animals, who defecated where they stood or crawled, who fought and killed themselves or each other, according to their needs, in a veritable Golgotha of despair, filth and violence. No human traits were recognisable among the inmates, even speech had become redundant.



In 1990 a team of Italian psychiatrists from Trieste, aided by volunteer care workers, managed to break down the walls of this madhouse. What they found shocked even them, as did the blank indifference of the guards - how else should they behave in a world deprived of reason? Leros raises a number of questions. How could such a regime have existed? And how could anyone have survived it?



Leros (2004) by Alex Majoli is published by Trolley Books.
Artworks will be added shortly