Penny Halcyon is an American film photographer living in Fort Worth, Texas. Her self-portraits fixate on the internalisation of her sadness as it hinges on an axis of isolation, both physical and mental. While self-portraiture has been a vulnerable and experimental form of expression, it has allowed her full control during a time when she has felt subordinate to a swallowing darkness.
How did the idea for the series come about?
Bleeding Soliloquies is a product of a depression that comes and goes as it pleases. My episodes of crying and sadness can seemingly go away for a while, and suddenly without cause or explanation those dark clouds can encroach me again. It can create violent storms within me, or slow, drawn out, sleepy drizzles. These self-portraits were shot in one day, in my apartment, and give a glimpse into that varied spectrum of feeling sad and alone.
What inspires you?
Transparency and emotional vulnerability. Some of my closest relationships I’ve cultivated recently have been with those I can speak plainly about my pain and happiness with. And with that comes a vulnerability that allows me to express myself in ways I may have been shy to previously.
What are your perceptions of beauty?
I see beauty in comfortability. I see beauty in not always being sure of oneself. I see beauty in confidence. I see beauty in awareness. I see beauty in love and happiness, and equally in sadness and despair. There’s growth and resiliency to be had in all areas and it’s so essentially human.
Do you think there’s a way for photographers/the industry to capture the female body in a more empowering way?
It’s hard to say definitively. For one, we all have different meanings of what empowerment is. Some people may see a photo of the female body, in whatever form, and find it to be utterly oppressive and/or hyper-sexualised. I think women should be able to express themselves however they want regardless of mainstream ideas of what Feminism is or Empowerment should be. I think it helps incredibly that we have more female artists creating work and giving spotlight to under-represented groups. On another note, we live in a culture where the female body is viewed as being inherently sexual. I think the easiest example of this is the Instagram and Facebook policy banning the *female* nipple. Which sucks! These are two incredibly powerful platforms, used by millions and millions of people globally. To add more to it, we all get to participate in policing the female body in those spaces by reporting photos. So I feel pessimistic sometimes considering that we have a whole population of people out there who actively help uphold a system of suppressing female expression in that way.
What makes you happy?
Flowers and all of my little passion projects. My mood shifts as easily as the weather in Texas, so it’s nice to find some happiness in something so seemingly small like the gaze and smell of a rose. During some of my darker days I would go to the market at least three times a week and purchase a single stem rose in whatever colour I was feeling that day. I dried all of those roses and still enjoy looking at them on my wall. My various projects keep me going in a more sustainable way; this series particularly–as painful as it was–serves as a cathartic release. It reminds me that sadness and happiness can coexist.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure. I would have once been fearful and afraid to be unsure, but the last year of my life has been the most tumultuous. For now I’m just going to keep creating and loving myself and beautiful things will inevitably come from that.