“If I’m in need of inspiration for new images,” Juno Calypso has said, “I’ll go on eBay. My key search words are ‘sexy’ and ‘pink’ and ‘mask’. I’ll start in the hair and beauty section and then move on to electronics, followed by a long browse in the wedding department.”
It was a similar kind of search that led her to the honeymoon hotel in which this picture is taken. Having come across a couples-only “land of love” resort in Pennsylvania, the London-based photographer saved up and booked herself in for a solo week. Calypso left her room only to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner. Otherwise, conjuring the persistent alter ego of her work (whom she thinks of as “Joyce”), she took advantage of the heart-shaped hot tub in her room, and surveyed herself in the mirrored ceiling, which had reflected lovers every week since the 1970s.
“The honeymoon hotel is a space charged with anticipation,” she noted of her project, which won the British Journal of Photography international award. “I like to put my character through the rituals that would otherwise play out in these spaces with two people – the preparation, and then watch as disappointment unfolds.” The result, she hopes, alive to all the traps and trappings of desire, is “half-autobiography, half-nonsensical fantasy”.
Calypso, 31, casts photography like a low-budget film, an inner cinema in which she is director, cinematographer and exploited star. The original plan, when this picture was taken in 2016, was to take Joyce off to honeymoon hotels and Valentine’s weekends in Russia, Bulgaria, Thailand, wherever; Calypso keeps a wish list of possible sugary venues, which she thinks of as Joyce’s Choices. Most recently though, Joyce was photographed alone, in a Barbie-pink underground Las Vegas bunker built by the Avon cosmetics director Girald Henderson, to which he and his wife would escape in the event of nuclear attack. She looked right at home.