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Out of Darkness Comes Light – mysteriously beautiful photographs from a bedbound sufferer

By Penny Clare

Penny-start

“I stayed alone in the darkness and the impossible became possible” – anon

Penny-sheet1

The bedsheets take flight I

I was mostly confined to bed in a dark room – for years, and years, and years.

At some point, in this isolated sea, I started taking photos. From my bed, in the dark. And my relationship to my illness and circumstances took on a different meaning and found creative expression. It was my way of creating movement.

The vast majority of my photos were shot with no artificial or natural daylight, though daylight was occasionally gleaned from a small opening or crack in the curtains or door.

What had been an atrocious impediment, severe light sensitivity, actually became a wonderful asset as I started to perceive different nuances and subtleties of light, depending on the time of day, season or level of my light sensitivity in any given moment. I began to explore hidden possibilities behind the mundane (awful) reality of my day-to-day existence.

The bedsheets take flight II

The bedsheets take flight II

In my exhaustion I made no attempt whatsoever to move objects or to compose pictures or prettify myself for the camera. The snapshots capture fleeting chinks of light and mysterious beauty that remained unseen by anything or anyone other than the camera. The highly energised and dynamic images appear as if they’ve come from another world. They turned the facts of my illness inside out and upside down. They express what ought to be clear to everyone but rarely is acknowledged in our culture, that the essence of a human being experiencing profound illness and disability is untouched and unconquerable. They make their statements silently, without words of frustration or protest, which by any account I was too ill to make.

I had spent what seemed interminable years in a state where living and dying had become so merged that I could not actually fulfil either condition. Creating photographic images with just a couple of seconds worth of ‘energy’ helped me to feel more alive, it tipped the balance giving me sensations of movement and expansion when I viewed them. There is an ancient Mayan saying “out of darkness comes light”. I think of my photos and smile.

None of these photos were engineered using photoshop techniques, though ‘light fill’ was used to reveal what lay hidden in the shade of the room.

 

 

Crown of pillows

Crown of pillows

 

 

A fingernail celebrates New Year

The bed deconstructing into its elements

 

 

Penny-fingernail

A fingernail celebrates New Year

 

 

Journey to the centre of the futon I

Journey to the centre of the futon I

 

 

Penny-journey-2

Journey to the centre of the futon II

 

 

Sunrise over planet duvet

Sunrise over planet duvet

 

 

Penny-white-flag

White flag above my bed (apologies to Dido)

 

 

Sense of self goes up in flames

Sense of self goes up in flames

 

 

Light's umbilical

Light’s umbilical

 

 

Three wishes

Three wishes

 

 

The river runs through me

The river runs through me

‘The river runs through me’ is a self-portrait: Penny’s eye is in the top left corner. She said “This is the first image I took. I felt so ill it was as if I was dying and no one in the outside world could see me and I wanted a way to document the depths of suffering people can go through.”

Tweets and Facebook shares of the blog are welcome :)

Penny really wants to share this photo blog so people can get a window into the world of severe ME and gives permission to post an individual photo on facebook and twitter so long as it links back to this blog and (for facebook) mentions Penny as the artist. Thanks. The blog link is http://phoenixrising.me/archives/21305

© Copyright Penny Clare. Please do not reproduce any images without permission

 

contact Penny Clare

Penny no longer uses computers, but this email address wil be monitored on her behalf and messages will be passed on to her.

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{ 54 comments… add one }

  • Nielk December 23, 2013, 9:08 pm

    How beautiful and amazing. This is such a breath of fresh air. Having had to deal with so much in the past few months, it is so magical to see this work of light and art from a dark room. I can't explain the feelin except to say that it is very uplifting. Thank you Penny for sharing this.

  • Chris December 23, 2013, 9:28 pm

    I too am awestruck at this coming, as it does, from a world I can barely imagine, let alone comprehend. Thank you Penny.

  • S.A. December 23, 2013, 9:44 pm

    Beautiful and essential.

  • Lynne B December 23, 2013, 10:30 pm

    Penny,
    it's inspirational that you could make these radiantly lovely and ethereal images with such minimal means. They are worthy of comparison with the work of any other artist. I hope you gained emotional nourishment and a feeling of self fulfilment in making them.
    Best wishes for your health,
    Lynne.

  • Ember December 23, 2013, 11:36 pm

    Thank you! I find these photos to be even more exquisite against a dark background. (Try clicking on them to enjoy that effect.)

  • beaker December 23, 2013, 11:52 pm

    Thank you for sharing your artistry. It's stunning and deeply felt.

    Merry Christmas,

  • beaker December 24, 2013, 12:03 am
    Ember

    Thank you! I find these photos to be even more exquisite against a dark background. (Try clicking on them to enjoy that effect.)

    I don't get a dark background when I do that. Do I need to do something special ? Or is it maybe the difference in computers ? Thanks

  • Kati December 24, 2013, 12:23 am

    Well done, Penny. These images touched me. I will be sharing on Twitter and Facebook with your name with it. I believe it can do some awareness, keeping your copyright in mind. Best wishes.

  • AndyPandy December 24, 2013, 12:25 am

    So beautiful and uplifting. Thank you.

  • Simon December 24, 2013, 1:54 am

    I really do think these photos are amazing, so full of life and light despite the desperate conditons in which they were made.

    Phoenix Rising doesn't get a huge amount of traffic at this time of year so if you like these photos, and this blog, please do share them.

    Sharing on Phoenix Rising for the uninitated (me, until a few months ago)
    blindingly obvious for the rest

    You can only share from the blog itself, not from the Article thread page.

    1. Click on the "Share" tab that floats down the left hand side
    2. Click again to share on facebook, twitter etc
    View attachment 6143
    Thank you!

    If you want to send a picture tweet, you could just retweet mine.

    Disclosure: as well as being a fan of these pics, I'm a friend of Penny's and first saw these pictures year ago. I'm so pleased they are finally reaching a wider audience.

    Happy Christmas all.

  • Firestormm December 24, 2013, 2:36 am
    beaker

    I don't get a dark background when I do that. Do I need to do something special ? Or is it maybe the difference in computers ? Thanks

    Just click on a picture and it will open on a separate page with a black background :)

  • Bob December 24, 2013, 3:40 am

    Penny, these photos are both attractive and intriguing.
    And it's a thought provoking project that you've carried out.

    It's a great collection of photos, and I have two individual favourites:

    Sunrise over planet duvet
    Journey to the centre of the futon II

    I'd be happy to have these framed and hung on my walls.
    (Apart from being great photos they'd also provoke interesting discussions.)

    I'd love to see these photos gain a wide audience.

  • Simon December 24, 2013, 4:51 am

    From Penny

    Thank you for all these marvellously encouraging comments. I don't have a computer and all these expressions of enjoyment are helping me to enjoy an exhibition that I can't actually see for myself!

    Happy Christmas to everyone

    Penny Clare

  • beaker December 24, 2013, 5:38 am
    Firestormm

    Just click on a picture and it will open on a separate page with a black background :)

    mine opens in another window and is white background and the photo is up on the upper left of the page.
    Maybe it's a mac thing ?
    Thanks anyways.
    I enjoy them very nicely here : )

  • Bob December 24, 2013, 5:52 am
    beaker

    mine opens in another window and is white background and the photo is up on the upper left of the page.
    Maybe it's a mac thing ?
    Thanks anyways.
    I enjoy them very nicely here : )

    I think it might be a browser thing.
    Firefox shows the images in the centre of the screen on a dark background.
    All the other browsers seem to show them in the top-left hand corner using a white background.
    But still enjoyably, however they're viewed.

  • Dreambirdie December 24, 2013, 9:45 am
    Phoenix Rising Team

    The highly energised and dynamic images appear as if they've come from another world. They turned the facts of my illness inside out and upside down.

    The photos are amazing and inspiring. Creativity can do wonders for the soul. And this statement says it all:

    Phoenix Rising Team

    They express what ought to be clear to everyone but rarely is acknowledged in our culture, that the essence of a human being experiencing profound illness and disability is untouched and unconquerable.

    Yes!

  • Simon December 24, 2013, 10:17 am
    Dreambirdie

    The photos are amazing and inspiring. Creativity can do wonders for the soul. And this statement says it all:

    Yes!

    Penny said

    It's really lovely to hear that those words chimed truthfully with you.

  • Hanna December 24, 2013, 10:35 am

    Thank you Penny, those images are a true gift for us. I am touched by their beauty and elevation. Very spiritual.

  • Dreambirdie December 24, 2013, 12:31 pm
    Simon

    Penny said

    It's really lovely to hear that those words chimed truthfully with you.

    Definitely, they did.

    Remembering "my essence" has kept me afloat through some very turbulent waters, and expressing my inner process creatively has saved my life.

  • leela December 24, 2013, 5:08 pm

    Words and images both so profound, moving and beautiful.

    What an uplifting and inspiring expression to share with us.

    With much admiration and love, dear Penny, and the heart-wish for ever-increase in wellbeing.

  • Jools December 24, 2013, 6:30 pm

    Sunrise over Planet Duvet is intense and I can really feel the licking heat. Thank you Penny.

  • Chris_Dooks December 24, 2013, 7:30 pm

    I know the artist who took these images and have spent many hours on the phone over the years trying to help her to get these images out there. And I failed – because I had my own work and have M.E. also. Arts officers never really understood how ill she was and how it would take either a whole lot of money and lots of one-to-one support to bring these things to fruition publicly. In the end, like with so many aspects of her life, and other people with severe M.E. / similar illnesses, she ended up ***just doing it***, not only releasing these images to the public, but also, by the looks of it, continuing to make new work in this way. I've never seen a more complete, simple and intelligent way of communicating a sense of worth through incarceration. This work needs to be seen by more people, so if you like it please do share. I've seen people on Facebook and twitter liking it – but it really helps if we share the images. I was so delighted on Christmas eve to come across not only this post from Penny but also discover the Phoenix Rising site also. This is really Penny's Mount Kilimanjaro and we should spread the word. It's one of the best Christmas gifts!

  • Bob December 24, 2013, 8:38 pm

    Hi Chris, a big welcome to Phoenix Rising. Great to have you join us.

  • Bob December 24, 2013, 8:42 pm

    If anyone could clarify please.
    Penny's blog says:

    © Copyright Penny Clare. Please do not reproduce any images without permission

    Am I right to assume that we shouldn't share individual images (e.g. on Twitter & Facebook) ?

  • Kati December 24, 2013, 11:30 pm

    They didn't seem to mind sharing her work on social media, as long as she is mentioned as the artist – Copyright infringement happens when people download these pictures without permission and/or claim them as being theirs.
    Usually it is safe to attach the link of the origin of the work we are sharing- for instance the link to the page on PR forums.

  • Simon December 25, 2013, 4:28 am
    Please do share these photos on facebook and twitter :thumbsup:

    Penny really wants to share these photos so people can get a window into the world of severe ME. So please do feel free to post an individual photo on facebook and twitter with a link back to this blog and mention Penny as the artist, as Leela says (maybe just the link on twitter, given the limitations).

    The blog link is http://phoenixrising.me/archives/21305

    Penny has been moved and touched by all the wonderful comments but is exhausted at the moment with Christmas so more from her later.

    Thanks for all the shares, and Happy Christmas

  • biophile December 25, 2013, 8:23 pm

    Cool! I think the bed deconstruction one is the best, but was hard to pick.

  • Simon December 27, 2013, 4:12 am

    Favourite photos?

    Bob

    It's a great collection of photos, and I have two individual favourites:
    Sunrise over planet duvet
    Journey to the centre of the futon II

    I'd be happy to have these framed and hung on my walls.
    (Apart from being great photos they'd also provoke interesting discussions.)

    Jools

    Sunrise over Planet Duvet is intense and I can really feel the licking heat. Thank you Penny.

    biophile

    Cool! I think the bed deconstruction one is the best, but was hard to pick.

    That looks like 2 for Planet duvet and 1 each for 'Journey to the centre of the futon II' & 'Bed deconstructing'

    I'll add another vote for "Journey to the centre of the futon II" though I also love Light's umbilical
    and while I find "A river runs through me" disconcerting it does a wondeful job of giving severe ME a face.

    Any other votes or nominations?

  • Little Bluestem December 27, 2013, 4:44 am

    It is difficult to chose favorites, but I will go with Sunrise over planet duvet, Light‘s umbilical, and The river runs through me.

  • M_Dramatic December 27, 2013, 9:14 pm

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful, inspirational photos! I love to see people suffering with illness so severely turn around and create something beautiful in the midst of it all. I am moderately affected and live a somewhat normal life- but have seen people completely bedridden living a more fulfilling life- creating a charity, etc.,etc. Best Wishes and peace to youin this New Year!

  • Ren December 29, 2013, 3:43 pm

    "The bedsheets take flight I" is my favorite. Something about it seems so alive to me. Thank you so much for sharing and adding something beautiful to the world. Best wishes and thoughts of healing, (now and) throughout for the coming new year.

  • RosieBee December 29, 2013, 3:50 pm

    Creative and moving Penny. Thank you for your words and the beautiful pictures.

  • Tammy December 29, 2013, 4:47 pm

    My favorite is three wishes…….reminds me of a dream I had one night of three stars flying out of the constellation Pleiades and left me with a peaceful feeling. I am truly moved. There is so much more than meets the eye.

  • GracieJ December 31, 2013, 7:46 am

    Stunning, beautiful work. Is Penny on 500PX? She should be; of course, that would take another person's help and support to do so. I have photographer friends who would find the composition and lighting for these amazing.

    When does the full-color full-size coffee table book get released?? I know, I know… Lost in the facetious question is the hope that it happens. I want some of these hanging on my wall as large prints.

    "A river runs through me" is my favorite. So many layers of meaning. We ARE the river, we are life.

    Thanks, Penny, for proving much so beautifully about human worth and dignity.

  • nasim marie jafry January 4, 2014, 11:02 am

    Hey Penny, Your photos are beautiful. Thank you. All good wishes, NASIM

  • Forebearance January 4, 2014, 6:39 pm

    I love your photographs, Penny!!!
    We know you are there.
    Forebearance

  • Simon January 8, 2014, 9:21 am

    Penny's scribe here, replying on her behalf:

    Lynne B

    Penny,
    it's inspirational that you could make these radiantly lovely and ethereal images with such minimal means. They are worthy of comparison with the work of any other artist. I hope you gained emotional nourishment and a feeling of self fulfilment in making them.
    Best wishes for your health,
    Lynne.

    Yes, Lynne, I'd go as far as to say the process was transformative.

    leela

    Words and images both so profound, moving and beautiful.

    What an uplifting and inspiring expression to share with us.

    With much admiration and love, dear Penny, and the heart-wish for ever-increase in wellbeing.

    Thank you for your blessings – I included '3 wishes' hoping everyone would make some – remember to make yours!

    Ren

    "The bedsheets take flight I" is my favorite. Something about it seems so alive to me. Thank you so much for sharing and adding something beautiful to the world. Best wishes and thoughts of healing, (now and) throughout for the coming new year.

    "The bedsheets take flight I" was originally called "The Ba Bird takes flight" but was changed to fit in the with flow of this exhibition. I like to think of it as its esoteric name! The Ba Bird was an ancient Egyptian foreunner of the phoenix. I hope this helps to deepen your enjoyment of the image.

    GracieJ

    Stunning, beautiful work. Is Penny on 500PX? She should be; of course, that would take another person's help and support to do so. I have photographer friends who would find the composition and lighting for these amazing.

    When does the full-color full-size coffee table book get released?? I know, I know… Lost in the facetious question is the hope that it happens. I want some of these hanging on my wall as large prints.

    "A river runs through me" is my favorite. So many layers of meaning. We ARE the river, we are life.

    Thanks, Penny, for proving much so beautifully about human worth and dignity.

    Nope, not on 500px! I'm so glad you connected deeply to 'A river runs through me'. It was a hard one to share as I was so very ill when I took it, but the way people have received it makes me glad I got over my shyness!

  • leela January 8, 2014, 10:32 am

    Thank you Simon, for carrying the messages of light. And thank you Penny for your shining openness.

  • Ren January 8, 2014, 8:16 pm
    Simon

    "The bedsheets take flight I" was originally called "The Ba Bird takes flight" but was changed to fit in the with flow of this exhibition. I like to think of it as its esoteric name! The Ba Bird was an ancient Egyptian foreunner of the phoenix. I hope this helps to deepen your enjoyment of the image.

    It is alive then!

    The Ba Bird is new for me – thank you for sharing. And keep fighting a good fight!! – for you and for our collective, a band of bau, an aria of canaries, a myth of phoenix.* We fight for each other – thank you for sharing your strength.

    Thank you, Simon, too!

    (* "bau" for plural of ba – found online; "band" borrowed from "band of brothers"; "aria" and "myth", I found to be existing collective nouns for birds. :))

  • Dakinijones January 9, 2014, 9:27 am

    I think my favourites are 'Sense of self goes up in flames', 'Fingernail celebrates New Year' and 'Crown of pillows'. Between them they remind me vividly of the worst years of my illness… Both the horror and the renewal. Of course the whole exhibition does that really. Amazing work. And the words only enhanced the visuals, I really related to the line about being on the borderline of living and dying and not knowing how to do either. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us Penny.

  • TCP36 January 9, 2014, 10:28 am

    Lovely light ethereal images. Beautiful work, Penny. I too enjoy my camera and the magic that can be produced. Keep at it…FAB!

  • Simon January 9, 2014, 12:06 pm

    Sorry, missed this one earlier; reply from Penny:

    Tammy

    My favorite is three wishes…….reminds me of a dream I had one night of three stars flying out of the constellation Pleiades and left me with a peaceful feeling. I am truly moved. There is so much more than meets the eye.

    Indeed, and do make sure you make those three whishes, and may they come true

    Also, someone emailed Penny saying they liked the photo and title of: "White flag above my bed (apologies to Dido)". For those who like me missed the reference, 'White Flag' is a song written by Dido with the line "there will be no white flag above my bed".

  • missmilki January 10, 2014, 5:41 am

    Dear Penny, these photographs are truly beautiful. It is amazing & inspiring to see how your soul thrives & creativity blossoms even as your body is limited. I was also inspired to create a series of photographs about light inspired by my illness a few years ago. I'm anywhere near as sick as you are but I did find that photography helped me notice the beauty in my mundane surroundings & the way the light moved through the house instead of thinking of it as my prison. However it is a long while now since I have created any art or photography. Thank you for reminding me how beneficial it can be to ones soul to create, and for inspiring me to return to it. I pray that you will be encouraged to know that your work has touched me & inspired me & many others. And I wish you well with your health.

  • Raindrop January 11, 2014, 3:49 am

    I don't have words strong enough to convey how moved I am by your gallery of photographs.
    I am deeply touched by them, inspired and impressed. They carry many metaphors and
    rich meaning. Is there any way that we may have copies of any of them (happy to purchase if
    it can be done reasonably) while giving you credit for your work? I would help me with my
    own hourly struggle to have a few on my walls to lend hope and inspiration.
    I thank you SO very much for showing these to us and the world at large.

  • Raindrop January 19, 2014, 3:13 am

    Penny,
    I am still thinking about these photos! Thank you again. I love the "3 wishes" also.
    They are gorgeous pieces of art and just incredibly inspirational to me.
    Your isolation and darkness is NOT in vain!!
    I
    will hold you in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Simon January 20, 2014, 3:12 pm

    Buying prints of Penny's work?

    Raindrop

    Is there any way that we may have copies of any of them (happy to purchase if it can be done reasonably) while giving you credit for your work?

    A few people have asked if they can get prints of Penny's photos. Penny is happy in prinicple to make some available but they were taken in low light on a cheap old digital so file quality is low. She is looking at ways to print them in a way that will reproduce well, but is really quite ill at the moment.

    If anyone is interested in getting prints – they probably won't be any bigger than A5 – could they PM me? At this point I have no idea of likely cost, I'm afraid

    And thanks to Raindrop and @missmilki for those warm comments which I have passed on.

  • Raindrop January 20, 2014, 3:53 pm
    Simon

    Buying prints of Penny's work?

    A few people have asked if they can get prints of Penny's photos. Penny is happy in prinicple to make some available but they were taken in low light on a cheap old digital so file quality is low. She is looking at ways to print them in a way that will reproduce well, but is really quite ill at the moment.

    If anyone is interested in getting prints – they probably won't be any bigger than A5 – could they PM me? At this point I have no idea of likely cost, I'm afraid

    And thanks to Raindrop and @missmilki for those warm comments which I have passed on.

    Simon,
    Please pardon my ignorance, but does "PM" you mean to (?) reply to you this way or ??
    Really appreciate your getting back to me on this.
    I would like any size possible; of course the bigger the better.
    I understand the quality won't be perfect. It's the heart and soul of the photos that counts.
    Would you like to know *which* photos I am interested in at this point or later?
    (Maybe that's a matter for how the files come out)
    Of course I understand her situation.
    Please let her know that her photos help me keep her in
    thoughts and prayer.

  • Simon January 20, 2014, 4:59 pm
    Raindrop

    Simon,
    Please pardon my ignorance, but does "PM" you mean to (?) reply to you this way or ??
    Really appreciate your getting back to me on this.
    I would like any size possible; of course the bigger the better.
    I understand the quality won't be perfect. It's the heart and soul of the photos that counts.
    Would you like to know *which* photos I am interested in at this point or later?
    (Maybe that's a matter for how the files come out)
    Of course I understand her situation.
    Please let her know that her photos help me keep her in
    thoughts and prayer.

    Sorry, PM is 'private message' but it's actually now called 'conversations', so no wonder you were confused:). Click on my photo, then click "start a conversation".

    I will pass on your message to Penny.

  • Raindrop January 21, 2014, 12:38 am

    Simon,
    I tried doing what you said….clicking on your photo …..but then could NOT see anywhere it said to
    click on "start a conversation". Sorry I have to ask, but can you see if maybe this changed or
    direct me in some other way?
    Oh goodness! It is hard to be a newbie!!!
    Also…..I would like any of the following (OR any others if these are not possible):
    1) Bedsheets take flight
    2) Three Wishes
    3) Journey to Center of the Futon 1
    4) River Runs Through Me

    I also think that these photos would be fabulous to use as post cards to sell or distribute for
    ME Awareness! I would love to even possibly be involved in that project.
    Please let me know how to do conversation to you as you requested…….Am so frustrated!:aghhh:
    Thank you!!

  • leela January 21, 2014, 12:56 am

    @Raindrop, don't worry, there is always a learning curve with new things.

    when you click on a person's icon or name, a box pops up and there is a line under which is written Member Since etc,
    and above that line there is Profile Page Start A Conversation Follow Ignore
    If you click on Start A Conversation that will take you to a box where you can send a private message.
    I am going to send you one now, so you can see the little red "Inbox" alert at the top of the page, telling you you have a new conversation.
    :)