We partnered up one-woman photographic storyteller Juno Calypso with Bruno Ceschel, founder of Self Publish, Be Happy.
Last summer, Juno Calypso was trekking through rural Pennsylvania to visit a 1960s honeymoon resort, the scenery for her latest staging. Juno poses as her own imagined muse, Joyce, a broken and frustrated housewife, her sensuous effigy arising from a pink heart shaped hot-tub. The images, like film-stills rather than portraits, suck you into a Lynchian dream-world of old-school Hollywood glamour – with a hint of dystopia, just to throw you off when you think everything might be alright.
Juno is an almighty one-girl show, having never used the help of an assistant during the set up of her work; camera, lighting, costume and all. Usually, photo shoots that hire a different member of staff to take each task, such as meticulously styling hair, body-painting or manning the equipment are hard enough work to orchestrate, so we can’t begin to imagine how Juno handles all of this and executes her images so perfectly. “An assistant could be helpful, but I start shoots at 9 in the evening” she tells us, “I end at 5am. I couldn’t put someone through that!”
Tonight, Juno will be discussing her Joyce collection with publisher Bruno Ceschel, founder of Self Publish, Be Happy, an organisation which supports the work of emerging photographers, and who will be hosting a series of talks and workshops down at The Photographer’s Gallery in Soho this month.
Are you naturally a very feminine person, is the Joyce character an exploration of your own?
I don’t know if I’m naturally feminine, but I’ve always been very drawn to artificial femininity and it’s become a part of the way I present myself. The character is definitely an exploration of my own desires. I like to use her to take my interests and exaggerate them. To explore cliché fantasies like weddings and honeymoons. It’s an excuse to dress up and become someone else, while finding out more about myself.
Why do you think the feminine sexuality is just so alluring? It’s a well-addressed topic but far from banal!
I think it never gets boring because with every generation, women are treated as if we just invented our sexuality, as if we had no desire till that day. We have to re-establish and justify it every time and deal with new ways society wants to police our bodies. While heterosexual guys have been waving their dicks around since the beginning of time with no question.
For me, it’s alluring because of it’s layers. That superficial layer of artificial femininity is just so good to look at. Hairless flesh, sugary make up, eyelashes like spiders. It’s body enhancement and adornment taken to a hyper real state. So you get drawn to it visually, but then as a woman I find myself being pulled into the layer underneath. Who is she? What’s she thinking about? Is she having a good time? I like the cracks that expose the performance. Crusty eyelash glue and fake tan stains. The feeling that everything is being delicately held together, ready to fall apart. I like my images to pin point that breakdown.
Do you have any assistants, or do you execute your self portraits completely alone?
It’s just me alone every time. I’ve never had an assistant. People have offered, and it would probably help, but I can’t explain how bored they would be. I start shoots at 9 in the evening with no plan, and then end at 5am still not really knowing what I’m doing, then repeat the process for another 4 nights. I couldn’t put someone through that.
What is the best/weirdest/funkiest location you’ve ever hired out and where?
I reckon the honeymoon hotel in America was the best. None of the decor had changed since it opened in the 1960s. The guy who founded it was the inventor of the heart shaped hot tub, and every room had mirrors on the ceiling. I’ve never been anywhere like that before. I love feeling like I’ve entered a time warp and the hotel did exactly that. I have had some other weird experiences, like this one Airbnb I rented in Malta that turned out to be a part time brothel.
Words: Lizzy Nicholson