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

By Penny Clare


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


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




A fingernail celebrates New Year



Journey to the centre of the futon I

Journey to the centre of the futon I




Journey to the centre of the futon II



Sunrise over planet duvet

Sunrise over planet duvet




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 }

  • Raindrop January 22, 2014, 5:54 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.

    This was very helpful, Leela, So I want to THANK you!
    I think I may have finally figured it out!:smug:

  • Little Bluestem January 23, 2014, 5:06 am

    Just a thought – a trio or quartet of small photos work well together.

    P.S. I love the postcard idea! :thumbsup:

  • Simon May 15, 2015, 4:37 pm
    There’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.”

    A new and moving exhibition by my friend Penny Clare, who also created the exhibition in this thread. It focuses on the experience of life with severe ME:

    Action for M.E. | Light flight

  • Strawberry May 15, 2015, 8:24 pm

    Simon, thank you for posting the update. I needed the reminder!

    I find it ironic that if I had taken pictures that looked like that, I would delete them as failures. And then I see Penny's pictures and all I can think is "With acceptance comes insight." I love how she can see the beauty in these pictures, they are fantastic! She inspires me.