Joan Craven (1897–1979)

Photo of Pamela Green  naked
Photo of Pamela Green by Joan Craven

Above a photograph of Pamela Green by Joan Craven, who photographed Pam several times. Joan shared studios with Walter Bird at Kinocrat House on the Cromwell Road, London. Don’t have much information about her. If you can help please email me or post something. Below is the text from a short article in Figure Quarterly (Fall), 1957.

PROBABLY THE MOST famous female exponent of figure photography today, Miss Joan Craven is the society-bred, fine-featured descendant of a long line of Yorkshire Cravens. She is a small, delicate woman, with a defiant will and an iron desire to remain a rugged individualist. On Bond street, she rubbed elbows with famous stage personalities during her youth, as well as prominent members of the nobility and gentry. “How I used to loathe those dreary court affairs,” she recalls. “They started in the evening and went on into the next morning, with the debutantes and their relatives, the ridiculous feathers on their heads, court trains sweeping the marble floors.” After she had her fill of this, Miss Craven decided to make a career of her favourite hobby and opened her own studio on Bond Street. She photographed the famous Diaghileff ballerinas, drifted into advertising, then fashion work. “But,” she confides, “I couldn’t bear having the studio full of longhaired advertising layabouts and fat, bald-headed entrepreneurs all with different ideas, all telling me what to do. I am a patient woman, but one day, driven desperate by all this nagging, I yelled ‘Oh, take the picture yourself,’ and walked out.” It was following this incident that the sensitive blue-blood turned to figure photography. She found working with a young, beautiful model a form of relaxation rather than a commissioned task. “I could please myself entirely,” says Miss Craven, “and if I also pleased the judges in the exhibitions, well that was highly satisfactory if not very remunerative.” But her nudes, all classically expressive and full-bodied creatures, have long since made her financially independent. She works sporadically now, allowing plenty of time to “just stand and stare at the natural treasures of life.”


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13 thoughts on “Joan Craven (1897–1979)

  1. Joan Craven lived next door to me in Plymouth the late ‘sixties and ‘seventies. She had married Geoff Lewis (GG Lewis) late in life. Maybe a second marriage, who knows?
    Geoff Lewis was author of ‘The Small Boat Skippers handbook’, contributed to regularly to various sailing journals and had been an engineer. For a time, he commuted to BAC at Bristol, coming back at weekends.
    I don’t think Joan was doing any photography at this time. She seemed a bit reclusive.
    But we were shown some of her photographs, and we could see that she was very talented. There were some framed photographs in the house.
    Is this any help?
    Peter Cresswell

    1. Hi Peter

      I was delighted to come across your comment while searching for information about Joan Craven, who was my great aunt. The last time I searched there was very limited information online, so this was a great find! I don’t suppose you remember the names of Geoff Lewis’s children? I wonder if they might know what happened to her photographs.

      Shona Craven

      1. Hi Shona,

        I am Geoff Lewis daughter in law. It would be good to talk to you and answer any questions….you may be able to answer some of ours!
        best wishes

        Kirsty Lewis

        1. Hi Kirsty

          Wow – the power of the internet! So excited to read your comment. And very happy to try to answer any questions you have, although I will likely have to consult my relatives as Joan died a couple of years before I was born. It certainly seems like she lived quite an unconventional life for her era. Subsequent to posting my earlier comment I’ve been told she lost a lot of negatives of her early work in the war.

          My email address is if you’d like to get in touch!


        2. Hi Kirsty

          I am very belatedly getting back in touch as I’m planning to resume work next month on my blog about Joan:

          I uncovered a fair bit of information during a trip to the British Library a couple of years ago but have not quite got around to going through it and updating the site.

          It would be lovely to hear from you, and would really inspire me to get organised and get updating! My email is now


    1. Hi Kenneth

      Thanks for sharing this picture. Joan was born in 1897 and died in 1979. Please do share any further discoveries!


  2. I am married to Joan’s nephew, Patrick. We have a number of her photographs, including one of her nude portraits. We have never known who the model was but it is a stunning photograph.

    1. Great to hear from you, Norma. I would love to able to post some more of Joan’s work. Do you think that would be possible? Would you be happy to make scans. I do think Joan has been overlooked by history and is underrated. It would be nice to try and raise her profile.

  3. My grandfather owned Kincorat House, Gerald Cookson. He ran Kinocrat Films. We have a number of images of him taken by Walter Bird. Will do some digging to see if I can find anything about Joan. All the best, Julian Cookson

    1. Thanks for getting in touch Julian. Sounds great. One of these days I’ll get round to doing a post on Walter Bird. I think I have a few of his books around.

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