Taking On The Self with British Photographer Juno Calypso
A recent recipient of the British Journal of Photography major prize for 2016, Juno Calypso represents a new wave of highly talented female photographers taking on their own body, preferring to shoot themselves rather than other people.
Juno operates in an unsettling area, one which takes on subtle themes of femininity, body image and perhaps the dark underbelly of the United States, especially at a time like this. Think Cindy Sherman reincarnated as a housewife photographing herself in the 1950s. Juno, which is just one of her many aliases, embodies the characters she creates, going to extremes like staying in a hotel room alone for weeks to make them come to life in her photographs. We caught up with her to find out about her provocative body of work.
Taken from the series The Honeymoon [Joyce II]
Your work is quite unsettling, almost unnerving. It’s been called “humorous and creepy.” Does ‘unnerving’ capture some of the spirit here?
Yeah unnerving works. A lot of people find it enjoyable to unsettle themselves, so I guess I’m playing up to that, rather than actually trying to terrify someone or give them a heart attack. I’d describe it as melancholic, sarcastic, cynical, depressing, seductive.
You document a much more nostalgic world, 50s kitsch or vintage 60s. How does that clash with your idea of a more modern conventional photography?
It doesn’t clash for me because I don’t like to intentionally set an era for my work – everything you see has either been taken in my grandma’s house or in a functioning hotel. Some of the clothes are vintage but I don’t check the decade. The props – apart from some things like an 80s laptop, are all found new on eBay or from modern Asian beauty stores. So I’d describe it more as a time-warp. In terms of photography, I don’t have an idea of how it should be, I just want the best picture I can get with a camera I can hide in holiday luggage.
Your work is so developed and mature already. Who are some of the giants whose shoulders you stand on?
Thank you. I owe a lot to my former tutor and artist Esther Teichmann. Cindy Sherman is an obvious giant. Matthew Barney, Pierre et Gilles, Erwin Olaf, Charlie White, Jeff Wall.
All images above taken from Joyce I
I think you’re making a lot of provocative statements about femininity and its place in society. What are some of the points you are trying to raise?
I think the main idea I have floating around in my work about femininity, is that on the one hand it can be an exhausting and demanding task thrown down to women, but despite that, anybody has the right to indulge in femininity in all it’s glory without the fear of being condemned, patronised or abused for making that choice.
Your series of the Lonely Women Hotel Tour is really great. Were there some moments where you found it uncomfortable?
Only when I had to dine with the other guests, which was twice a day. It was so awkward I would stay in my room eating powdery protein bars and dried apples. It was disgusting.
You recently won the BJP awards, how have things changed for you?
It’s been busy. It’s been fun. I’m now represented by TJ Boulting Gallery in London, as well as commercial representation from photographic agency WE FOLK. After doing everything on my own for so long it’s good to have back up from the right people.
From Selfie to Self-expression is on at Saatchi Gallery from 31 March-30 May. Entrance is free.