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Leros

With his first book, Alex Majoli creates an intimate study of the psychiatric hospital located on the Greek island of Leros

Alex Majoli

Alex Majoli | Leros Kosta, Pavilion 16. Kosta developed his own method of being cleaned by the guards: he spread excrement on his face and cavorted in front of them. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos

All I know about Leros is in this book. I know that this is another story about crazy people, many crazy people, more than 4,000 at first. I know that ‘Leros’ means dirty and that they came to this island from all over Greece, chosen from among the worst cases, the ones they’d given up on in the psychiatric hospitals.

Alex Majoli | Leros Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli | Leros Pavillion 14. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1995. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli | Leros Bice, a care worker, hugs a patient. There was once no semblance of affection for the patients; the guards were feared and loathed. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli | Leros Elias in a void. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli | Leros Main courtyard. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos

I know that they were housed in an ex-military base on the island, which had previously been used as a jail for all political prisoners. I know that the islanders began working in the new psychiatric hospital. I know that soon Leros’ story began to be associated with its psychiatric hospital and that the world knew nothing about it.

Alex Majoli | Leros Inside the psychiatric hospital. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece.1995. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli | Leros Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1995. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos

I know that inside the asylum you didn’t live, you survived.

Alex Majoli | Leros An entreaty, Pavillon 14. Leros, Dodecanese islands, Greece. 1995. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos

For nearly 20 years, Leros was taken over for the purpose of housing mental patients. This book documents the severity of the conditions and treatment of the inmates; their daily lives both inside the hospital and outside it when they were freed in the 1990s upon closure of the hospital.

Alex Majoli | Leros Nikita plays with Marina, a Trieste care worker. Leros, Dodecanese Islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli A patient and a care worker lie in the sun. Leros, Dodecanese Islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli Lakkis harbour, Cristo. He was alone in being able to escape the asylum guards as he pleased; nobody knows how. Leros, Dodecanese Islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli Mugshots of inmates found amongst the few official documents retrieved from the asylum. Leros, Dodecanese Islands, Greece. 1995. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Alex Majoli | Leros The sea at night. Leros, Dodecanese Islands, Greece. 1994. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos