PDN Photo of the Day

Expanding Sad Girl Theory

Petra Collins has been busy during the relatively short time she’s been alive—the 23 year old is a fashion and editorial photographer, she curated a book of art by women photographers that made The New York Times best photo books list in 2015, she’s been in art shows around the world, and she has accumulated more than 300,000 Instagram followers. “24 Hour Psycho,” her latest show, opens April 2 and runs until April 30 at Ever Gold [Projects] in San Francisco, and continues the hotly-colored, lady-centered work Collins has been championing and creating in her many roles. The new images are close-ups of the faces of Collins’s friends in various states of emotional distress, made in a collaborative process in which subjects take turns being photographed and acting as assistants. Under rainbow-colored lights, young women cry, their faces damp with sweat and tears. Like Sam Taylor-Johnson did with men, and Audrey Wollen’s more recent Sad Girl work, Collins explores the way strong emotion is tied to gender and vulnerability.

While the show shares its title with a 1993 installation by Douglas Gordon, which slowed down Hitchcock’s classic from 24 frames per second to two, stretching Psycho to 24 hours, Collins claims no relation. It “has nothing to do with Douglas Gordon or Hitchcock actually,” she said in a recent interview, insisting instead the title came from a misreading of a neon sign for a 24 hour psychic. While Janet Leigh’s troubled character doesn’t seem so far removed from Collins’s images, she says the phrase “perfectly described the feeling of, and the perception of, being a young woman today. The constant battle within oneself, having to balance oppositional ideals of virgin, whore, mother.” Collins recalls advice from her mother, who suffered from mental illness: “One thing she told me as a young girl that really stuck with me was ‘it’s okay to be sad.’ This was a big deal for me because it was something that I, as a young girl, didn’t feel I had the agency to express, that I couldn’t be strong and sad and female at the same time; that being sad was passive, it was giving up, it was being weak. With this series I wanted to create colorful, loud, almost sublime images of emotion.”

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