Five O’clock Flower: A Photographic Series
Jenny Peñas is a Philippine photographer currently based in Madrid, Spain. She grew up in a house with a huge garden and thought for many years she was sharing it with fairies and elves! “Nowadays, no matter where I am, I try to surround myself with plants,” she tells me. “They instantly make me feel at home.” Her passion for nature is evident in her new series of work called Five O’clock Flower, which captures the simple beauty of light, shadow, and (of course) flowers.
Can you please tell us about the Five O’clock Flower series?
The title is a play on the phrase ‘5 O’clock Shadow.’ The light in my apartment in Madrid is magical at 5pm in the afternoon. I simply wanted to create something with it. I love playing with light and shadows and it was the perfect canvas.
I had just watched the documentary Robert Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures and was inspired by his work, especially his flower photographs. It reminded me that you don’t need a huge production budget to make something beautiful.
I started collecting vases, visiting florists and the art supplies store. This project turned into a study of natural light, reflections, colour and composition for me. I challenged myself to play with that specific light in a different way every day.
Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
A lot of effort goes into pre-production in my photography projects. I start with one idea – a colour, a mood, a scene, anything I want to capture in an image and then I collect references and study them carefully and see how I could make it my own. I assemble a team if I need one, or source all the materials myself. This project took me a few weeks, having to also wait for the right conditions and being allowed to work on only 1 set-up a day.
During the actual shoots, I make sure all the elements are in place and when I start shooting, I’ll see where it takes me.
It’s always a delight to see the final product and how similar and different it is from my original idea.
August is our SIN issue – can you share something a little sinful about yourself?
I’m 32 years old and I have this love/hate relationship with young adult literature. I can’t resist it. Books by Rainbow Powell, David Levithan, John Green, etcetera.. sometimes I enjoy it but most of the time reading them makes me feel really old. I keep telling myself I’m wasting my time and I’m better off reading heavier stuff… but I keep picking them up! It’s the same with chick flicks and celebrity fashion blogs, it’s an addiction!
What draws you to plants?
All my life, I’ve lived in big cities – Manila, Singapore & Madrid. So, whenever I’m outdoors, surrounded by nature I am completely in awe.
The natural world is magical and the diversity of plants and wildlife provide endless inspiration.
What are you passionate about?
I’m most passionate about photography, exploration and connections.
What media resources do you look to for inspiration?
Magazines – I grew up reading my grandparents’ subscriptions – Time, National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, etc. but Colors Magazine is my all-time favourite publication. It’s shown me it’s possible to portray the diversity of the world in a playful, interesting yet meaningful way. No longer reliant on what arrives physically on my doorstep, I browse and buy everything from The New Yorker, The Fader, Afar and The Gentlewoman.
What is your dream project?
With the right equipment, a free schedule and proper funding, I’d love to work on documenting the beachscapes of the Philippines. A mix of large-format photography inspired by the work of Italian photographer, Massimo Vitali and the intimate and satirical work of British photographer, Martin Parr.
Another is a long-term documentary project tackling the Filipino diaspora. I haven’t lived in the Philippines for the past 6 years. I am part of a major demographic of Filipino migrant workers. In my head, I hope it would have a fine art photographic approach with still-life and staged portraiture.
What are you looking forward to?
After 9 months in Spain (the longest time I’ve spent away from home), I’m looking forward to visiting the Philippines. I’ll be catching up with my family and friends while trying to get outside of Manila to explore and document as much of my country as I can.
If you were a plant, what would you be?
Mango is my favourite fruit and I proudly believe that the Philippines grows the yummiest type! For as simple reason as that, I’d be a mango tree.