A nude woman – caked in green body mask, staring at her reflection multiplied many times across a wall of mirrors – encapsulates a central narrative of Juno Calypso’s work. Existing as part of her series Joyce, for which the young photographer won the International Photography Award 2016, the work explores the complexities of women’s perceptions of themselves and the feminine ideals that play into this.
Created during a week-long stay at an American honeymoon hotel in rural Pennsylvania, the project captures the environments, rituals and tools associated with a certain construct of femininity. Bathed in pink, Calypso masquerades as her alter-ego Joyce, a frustrated, lonely housewife playing out the absurd rituals of the honeymoon alone in her hotel room. However, in co-opting these cliches, Calypso also reclaims them: “I know this is weird. I know what I’m doing. I don’t like it when people assume you’re just an idiot,” she explains.
For Calypso, unfamiliar and unusual surroundings remain an important part of her practise. The outlandish and bizarre interiors of hotel rooms around the world have become her version of the artist’s studios and so, it is apt that the destination of her next big project be Las Vegas. “I went for the first time in August and it was even wilder than I had ever imagined. I found this really interesting location, which I stayed in for a couple of nights with one other person that I had just met. So, still doing spooky things as normal,” she says.
Since winning the International Photography Award, Calypso has exhibited her personal work widely, including a further solo exhibition at Unseen Photo Fair with TJ Boulting. Her success also brought Calypso to the attention of the London-based agency WeFolk, who have now represented her for over a year. “I was initially reluctant because I was worried about the nature of commissions, but they understand that I’m a weirdo who likes to work alone and they find me really interesting work in line with that.”
For her most recent commission Calypso produced a series interrogating the shady world of egg freezing for the online platform Topic. “Initially I was just so excited about doing something with eggs; what I envisioned was really abstract and kooky,” she says. However, as the photographer began researching around the subject-matter more deeply, the darker sides of the industry emerged. “I always thought egg freezing was something positive but, in fact, it’s very much about making money from the false hope of women.” The resulting project is indistinguishable from her personal work, with Calypso translating her signature aesthetic into an exploration of this serious and timely subject-matter.
Working with WeFolk has also offered Calypso the opportunity to expand her practice and experiment with new creative mediums. She is currently working on a commission to produce a creative installation, due to be exhibited at a venue in London next year. “I thought I’d always have to be behind the camera, but it’s really positive to have someone encourage you to push yourself and experiment with new things.”
By drawing attention to her work, the International Photography Award 2016 marked a significant moment in the young photographer’s career, resulting in an endless stream of opportunities. Offering advice to applicants entering this year, Calypso stresses the importance of self-confidence. “If you know you have a great project make sure to do a strong edit and then enter, who knows what will happen,” she says. “And don’t be disheartened if you’re not successful. Be confident in your work, there’s always next time.”
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