Photographer Juno Calypso had focused primarily on creating portraiture based on a traditional aesthetic of beautiful, flawless women, when one evening she decided to use herself as a stand-in model to prep for an upcoming shoot. To make things more comfortable for herself in front of the camera, she began making funny faces and poses. When she showed the work to her class and was greeted with laughter, she found herself inspired in a more profound way than when she had shown the more conventional, hyperfeminized portraits.
Suddenly Juno became “Joyce,” an alter-ego of Calypso and a caricature of women struggling against the feminist ideal. Overwhelmed and bored by modern rituals and occupations that apply to constructed femininity, “Joyce” (both the name of the series and the character) is always shot alone with a glazed, almost lifeless expression. She occupies a space that isn’t quite defined by time, although references to various decades can be seen throughout the series.
“I find it more enjoyable to merge decades rather than recreate just one,” the London-based Calypso wrote via email about the series. “I want my pictures to have a feeling of walking into a seaside [bed and breakfast] that hasn’t changed since the 1970s, but they’ve updated little bits here and there, so you end up living inside a confused time warp.”
Calypso said that whether or not she is creating imagery of women in a more traditional, hyperbeautiful manner or when she is working on “Joyce,” her work has always been consistent. “I love things to be extreme, but this is probably the most toned-down my work has been,” she said. “Even when I made pictures of beautiful women, it was usually a beautiful woman covered in blood, or vomiting sweets.”
Calypso added that much of that earlier work was simply “teenage attempts at abstract art” and with “Joyce” she has tried to create a less obvious, more “mundane” body of work that still catches the viewer off-guard. She is still working on new images for the series but said that she doesn’t plan too far ahead, preferring instead to work in a more serendipitous manner. “I tend to improvise using props, costumes, and locations as starting points, which makes it feel less like a strict project,” she said. “It’s just something I like to do when I’m by myself. If I go on holiday and end up in a strange hotel room, I think I’ll always have an urge to take a picture of myself in it.”