Staring at your face for hours on end in the name of art can be tough. Juno Calypso, of all people, should know. Since she was was 21 she has been on both sides of the camera, creating work that is a strange, haunting, sometimes hilarious critique of femininity.
“Theoretically, I love treading the line between feminism and being erotic, playing with those cliched poses,” she said when we spoke to her following her latest shoot in which she was experimenting with the Fujifilm GFX 50S. “People want to assist me thinking it’ll be fun but it’s a frustrating, long boring process,” says the 28-year-old photographer. “Honestly, I don’t enjoy it.”
Calypso first came to the photography world’s attention with her Art Catlin Award-winning series Joyce, in which she appeared as her ‘80s-style alter ego in big glasses, blonde wigs and pink lingerie. Darker in tone, her next project, The Honeymoon, captured a solo trip to an American couple’s retreat where she posed in heart-shaped hot tubs.
The accolades have continued to pile up – including a BJP International Photography Award and a solo show at Flowers Gallery. At the time of writing social media is abuzz with chat about her typically incisive photo essay, A Girl’s Guide to Egg Freezing – a commission for TOPIC Magazine that she got through her agent We Folk – which shows Calypso, her reflection repeated in boudoir mirrors, delicately injecting her belly.
It was only when photographer Esther Teichmann, one of Calypso’s tutors at the London College of Communication, saw some test shoots for fashion pictures where Calypso had stood in for the model, that the idea for Joyce was born. “It won a couple of awards and all of a sudden people were interested. I knew I had to carry on.” What does she think resonated with people about the character? “It’s relatable humour,” says Calypso. “She looks pissed off but it’s still a colourful and fun picture to look at so it kind of soothes you while giving you some excitement.”
Although the character of Joyce became less central in The Honeymoon, Calypso’s focus on experimental self-portraiture continued. Each shot took hours to produce. “I just chip away, change this, change that.” The lack of windows in the honeymoon hotel didn’t help. “It can lonely and weird.” Calypso’s been less adventurous when it comes to kit. “I’ve stuck with the same camera and lens since I left LCC in 2012. Before that I used analogue medium and large format which I loved the quality of, but it became impossible to shoot self portraits on location by myself without something smaller, and digital.”
She was intrigued to try out the new medium format mirrorless digital camera, the Fujifilm GFX 50S. “The colours were very true to life, I didn’t have to make many adjustments at all in camera or post production. Usually I’ll put up with whatever I can get on camera knowing I can colour correct it later. I’ll allocate days or weeks for editing. With the photographs shot on the GFX, I sat down ready to begin the process but ended up not having to do much at all.
“The quality was much greater than what I’m used to,” she continues. “There was so much more information in the raw file to play with. I don’t like being restricted by the composition or other decisions I’ve made on camera. I like to be able to make big changes and crop down a lot. I could do that with this camera without losing quality,” she adds.
After forgetting to order a remote control – an essential tool for Calypso – she found she could use an app with the Fujifilm GFX 50S to turn her phone into a remote. “It was 100 times better. With a remote control you can’t see anything but now I could change the focus from where I was so I didn’t have to get up, I just slid it under a pillow. It’s like it was made just for what I do. Being behind the camera and in front of it at the same time. I’ve tried an external adaptor since for my camera but the Fuji remote control interface remains the best.”
The Fujifilm GFX 50S shoot also presented an opportunity for some stylistic exploration. “I’m trying not to limit myself to only shooting once a year on location so I set up a studio in my bedroom,” she says. But Calypso doesn’t stay still for long. She’s just back from LA, where she was doing a talk at the Museum of Broken Relationships, alongside photographer Natasha Caruana. While there she travelled to some locations she’d been researching beforehand. “It was a bit of an experiment,” is all she’ll reveal. Of course – we wouldn’t expect anything less.
The GFX 50S is Fujifilm’s first medium format mirrorless camera system, offering outstanding image quality in a digital format, at an affordable price. It’s available to buy now. For more information please visit the Fujifilm website.
Sponsored by Fujifilm: This feature was made possible with the support of Fujifilm. Please click here for more information on sponsored content funding at British Journal of Photography.