Liana Burgess, Anthony’s second wife, was a keen photographer. The images she produced make up a large part of the photographic collection in the Burgess Foundation’s archive, and they are stored in the form of prints and slides. Liana was a prolific amateur photographer, and her images are particularly valuable as they document both the home life of the Burgesses and their travels around the world between 1968 and 1993.
Burgess himself did not have a particularly strong relationship with the visual arts, preferring instead to capture the world through fiction and music. Yet some of his writing deals with photography. In 1980 he wrote the introduction to Private Pictures, a book of paparazzi photographs, in which he says: ‘Photography as art is, like painting, concerned with suggesting movement; when it tries to capture a human personality it wishes to give the impression of that personality existing in time, not in the timelessness of the split second.’
Often the pictures Liana took of Burgess capture him in mid-conversation, his mouth curved and open but rarely smiling. Or else, he is smoking. But these pictures are more intimate that those that grace the covers of Burgess’s books: tourist shots of Burgess posing by statues at the Rubens House in Antwerp; Burgess reclining in bed and feigning shock while on a tour of Australia; Liana catching Burgess as he reads a newspaper outside a cafe in Italy.
Burgess fictionalised Liana’s love of photography in his novel Beard’s Roman Women (1976). The novel is inspired by images by the American photographer David Robinson, but Burgess credits them to his character Paola Lucrezia Belli, a loose characterisation of his wife. In the novel, Beard uses the photos to create a shrine in his Roman apartment to the absent Paola, until they are destroyed by a rampaging gang of girls.
Liana’s camera is an Asahi Pentax SP1000, dating from the mid-1960s. Liana is seen using this camera to take a self-portrait on the opening night of Burgess’s Cyrano in New York on 19 May 1973.