Over the duration of seven years, London based photographer Polly Penrose created a series of dynamic self portraits that examine a woman’s changing body and it’s emotional reaction to a physical space. The series, titled Body of Work, began in a purely organic way, stemming from her desire to capture eccentric nude portraits, while aware she could more accurately dictate concepts and ideas using herself as a subject rather than a model.
Each portrait is a reaction to how the body can ‘fit in’ a physical space. Often, Penrose has never seen the location before, and she never enters a space with a concrete idea. Open to unrehearsed experimentation, each image tests her stamina; whether she can balance upside down on a chair or stretch into a downward dog-like yoga pose, while running back and forth between her positioning and the camera’s self timer. Each pose is also an emotional response to her feelings at that specific moment in her life. For example, she forms a tight ball of excitement on a yellow chair as she reacts to her recent engagement. In another, she is overwhelmingly calm and balanced, nine months pregnant, awaiting the birth of her first child. Then we see the almost sacrificial, exhausted pose two months into motherhood.
Penrose imagines she will continue taking self-portraits until she can no longer move to do it. The complete series Body of Work was on exhibit earlier this year, and Penrose says, “I have taken more since [the show] that definitely feel like a different chapter, they are less aggressive, definitely more tender and soft, which is interesting.”
All images © Polly Penrose