Polly Penrose

1. Aesthetics – The study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty. How has aesthetic evolved over the years and how has this influenced fashion photography? How do you approach aesthetics in your works?

Aesthetic is constantly evolving and I think fashion photography is a very revealing mirror to what is going on at the time. The images in fashion pictures in the 60’s were very different to those of the 80’s, not just in the clothes but in the casting, the make up, the locations, poses, attitude – and all of those things speak of the visual language of the time, which itself speaks of a bigger picture.

My aesthetic is driven by the methodology of my pictures, I shoot on a self timer in unfamiliar places responding to my surroundings. My pictures are therefore spontaneous honest and simple.

2. Identity – “We contain multitudes” wrote Walt Whitman, referring to the fact that we see ourselves in different ways depending on different contexts. Nowadays, gender and sexuality have been explored in many ways – art, cinema and of course fashion – and fashion photography has been perceived as a means to translate and picture actual reality. How do you reflect identity in your works? How has the perception of our own bodies changed in recent years? How has it been influenced by media and by fashion itself?

Every day we are bombarded with images of ‘perfect’ looking young women and I think many people struggle with the reality that is their own body. I do think this is changing in some channels, even in mainstream advertising individuality is being celebrated more and more. But not nearly enough.

3. Beauty in Fashion – “The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express” said Francis Bacon. Fashion photography once depicted a perfect kind of beauty, almost false in its perfection. Today, fashion photography focuses on imperfection and peculiar traits. Which is your relationship with beauty? How has the language of photography mutated in the past years? 

I have never been interested in obvious beauty. My eye is drawn to the oddities, people who are brave enough to embrace their individuality and be proud of it.  This is what we need, more bravery to be ourselves.   To celebrate what it is to be an individual – as this happens more in magazines and everyday imagery hopefully it will happen more in the real world.

4. Sociology – The study of human behaviour. How is photography capable of picturing social changes? Is fashion photography a way to picture cultural changes within society? How have social and cultural changes influenced your works?

Fashion photography is an interesting outlet because it has one foot in fantasy, the other in reality and can shift its weight according to what the photographer is surrounded by and reacting too. Fashion photography is a fantastical record of our society and how it is constantly changing. It comments on our culture, our identity, our desires and needs. It has a very powerful voice.

5. Perceptive Variations: an exhibition about identity, gender, change. How have your works expressed this feeling? How do you express your personal background in your work?

After ten years of photographing my body bending, holding on, fitting in, the pictures have become a mirror for me. As well as showing the physical journey of my body over time, they also reveal an emotional one. Each picture candidly portraying a moment, like marks in the calendar of my life. But as well as being about myself, as a body of work they comment on what it is to be a woman in this world and all the strength and humour it entails.

by Giovanna Pisacane