[“][I]t started out as a joke but now here I am in 2016 making a career out of her,” artist Juno Calypso tells us, talking about her alter ego, Joyce. Born in 2012 out of a reaction to the pressure to produce serious photography at university, Joyce, Juno’s “elusive character” has become a symbol of the dead weight of constructed femininity, garnering global attention for her self-portratiruer alone in pastel, seedy locations.
From her mum’s house, to various locations on Airbnb, to the Honeymoon Resort in Pennsylvania (which was an “anxiety-inducing trip” that required selling everything on eBay to get there), Juno has captured her hyper-feminine guise with an exhausted, bored expression on her face to satirise her old desires, not only as a photographer that once desired to make “pretty pictures of women”, but also as a woman.
As part of our series on alter-egos that has featured artists Babymorocco and Leah Schrager, we caught up with the London based photographer to learn a bit more about Joyce and what she means to her – finding out about the locations she’s staged in, what inspired The Honeymoon series, and what’s upcoming for the caricature.
Tell me a bit about Joyce.
Joyce is a character I made up in 2012 when I was a photography student. It started out as a joke but now here I am in 2016 making a career out of her. It sounds weird saying her because I don’t think of her as an alter-ego in the conventional sense. The name just stuck. To me she’s just an elusive character without a story.
What was the motivation behind creating Joyce?
I think part of it was a reaction against feeling pressure to make very serious photographs at university. I just wanted to make people laugh. I also wanted to be a fashion and beauty photographer for ages, making pretty pictures of pretty models. So creating Joyce – this hyper feminine character with such an exhausted bored look on her face, that was my way of satirising my old desires not only as a photographer, but as a woman.
"It sounds weird saying her because I don’t think of her as an alter-ego in the conventional sense. "
What does Joyce mean to you as Juno?
She is a very elaborate and expensive hobby.
How does having an alter ego affect your normal life?
A lot of the time people don’t even realise they’re self-portraits so that saves me the hassle. I reckon people expect me to be really eccentric or pretentious in real life but in reality I’m pretty basic. I do get a lot of people asking me how Joyce is, or if she’s in a relationship, and I have no idea what to say because she isn’t real.
"I do get a lot of people asking me how Joyce is, or if she’s in a relationship, and I have no idea what to say because she isn’t real."
Tell me a bit about the places you shoot Joyce in.
I started out in my mum’s house. I also worked a lot at my grandmother’s flat. Then when she started getting a bit suspicious I moved on to my other grandma’s flat in Malta. After my family had enough I began using places on Airbnb. I’ve found so many weird locations on there. Then came the Honeymoon resort.
What inspired your series ‘The Honeymoon’ and how was the experience?
There was a single photograph that inspired the whole series. It was just a trip advisor photo of a pink mirrored bathroom that’d been sitting on my desktop for ages. When I finally found out where it was I sold everything I could on eBay to get myself out there. Honeymoon resorts are really expensive because nobody stays for more than a few days. I was there for a week. I went completely alone, told them I was a travel blogger and ended up with keys to every room in the resort. It was anxiety-inducing, but perfect.
How would you describe the responses to Joyce?
It’s been pretty good. Most people laugh and get it straight away. Others just like it because it’s pink which is also good. Some find it very uncomfortable and eerie. I like that. I hardly receive any backlash for it though. I think the fact that they are self-portraits.. it prevents me from being accused of exploitation. Most people understand it’s just a very personal project.
What can we expect from Joyce in the future?
To be honest, I have no idea. There’s never been a planned narrative. However I am accumulating an array of very strange locations and costumes at the moment, so something will materialise soon. In the mean time I’ll be exhibiting my work at Untitled Space in New York this July, Transition Gallery in London in September, and then also at the Amsterdam Unseen Photo Fair in September.