Body Clock: Polly Penrose’s nude self-portraits portray an emotional journey

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Her face is concealed throughout, though, and for Penrose that is key – although, again, it wasn’t a conscious choice initially. Covering her face makes the project feel less personal, she says, despite the fact that she’s naked; it also puts the emphasis on her body language and gestures. “This is purely about my body and how strong it is, and what it is expressing,” she says. “I think a body can express as much as a face, but you have to look a bit harder perhaps.”

And if there is something humorous in some of the poses, there is also wit in some of the locations she used. She shot one in a city boardroom out of hours, for example, and another in an attic while Tim Walker was doing a fashion shoot in the house below (she was his studio assistant for years). She laughs that she was literally the mad woman in the attic, but says the boardroom felt more intimidating.

“I didn’t think about it at the time, but it’s a very strange thing that around that table there are discussions about hiring asset managers for gargantuan sums of money, with very little humanity involved, and yet there has literally been a naked woman there being as organic as possible,” she says. “To be naked in a space like that is pretty unnerving, and it all feeds into the pose.”

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy