The Road is Wider than Long

About this exhibition

As Lee Miller and Roland Penrose  travelled through a world that was on the edge of the beginning of World War II both of them took photographs, capturing the surreal, landscapes and documenting the traditions of people such as the Roma, whose ways of living would later fall victim to politics and world events. At the end of their journey Lee returned to her life in Cairo, Egypt. Roland to London, where he made what is now known to be one of the earliest examples of a British Surrealist photobook of their trip for Lee, a surrealist love poem, drawn from his own memories and records. He called the book ‘The Road is Wider than Long’.

The Surrealist photobook narrates their journey through Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. It originated as a hand written book with tipped in photographs professionally bound in shoe leather which he gave to Lee. He soon also then adapted it for self-publication through his own London Gallery. The first edition printed was 510 copies in a wide range of monotype fonts, and some lines in colour. The extra ten copies had photographs tipped in over the dot screen block printed images, and small illuminations that he added in watercolor. Roland used these ten as personal gifts with the first one bearing the inscription “For Lee who caught me in her cup of gold”. Other copies went to artist friends such as  Paul and Nusch Eluard, Man Ray and Max Ernst.

It is Rolands images of this journey that are better known because of the book, but Lee Miller’s camera also quietly observes. She was keen to learn the traditions, in fact, pictures of Lee by Roland often show her immersed with the people they met. She made a particular attachment to a group of Roma who before she parted they made her a special cerimonial sheepskin coat, hand embriodered with decorations, the date and her initials which we still have in the collection. The majority of Lee’s images from this journey have never been published.

Facimilie copies of both the hand written and the first printed edition dedicated to Lee, of ‘The Road is Wider than Long’ are being specially printed by the Lee Miller Archives to accompany this exhibition.