It was an old picture of a lurid pink bathroom that inspired London-born photographer Juno Calypso to spend a week honeymooning solo at a Pennsylvania love hotel. “My first thought was that I’d be out of my mind to go all that way to take some pictures, but after failing to find anything similar in Europe I knew I’d be even crazier not to go,” Calypso says.
Surrounded by heart-shaped tubs, sparkling mirror lights and her signature anachronistic beauty devices, the Penn Hills Resort became the setting of The Honeymoon, Calypso’s new series of photographs exploring the absurdities of female identity and sexuality.
“It was more monogamous romance than swinging free love, so the experience was quite awkward. I had to take a three-hour coach from New York to the resort and when I was dropped off at the pick up point by this small-town diner the waitress looked me up and down and said, “…just one?”
Sticking out like “a massive third wheel” at the resort, Calypso had plenty of time to develop the character she first started working on for her London College of Communications graduate show in 2012. Back then, Calypso channelled suburban isolation by placing a seemingly impassive Joyce in the midst of garish sets furnished with pastel curtains and plasticky food. With the Pennsylvania experience offering everything but marital bliss, however, Calypso says Joyce is beginning to evolve beyond the pent-up Stepford Wife.
“I feel like she is becoming more dominant in her demeanour, rather than looking worn out and defeated. She’s still pissed off, but she isn’t in despair. I used to take pictures of Joyce as a way of making a critique on the laboured construction of femininity, but now I’m starting to see that the problem isn’t the make-up and bizarre body improvement devices, but the way society treats women who invest so deeply in their appearance.”
Recently premiered at London’s Flowers Gallery, more short films and photographs captured at the resort will be exhibited later this summer. Meanwhile, Calypso says her new obsession has only just begun: “My dream is to go on a one-woman tour of honeymoon hotels around the world.”