“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.
I never want to see another picture of a self-portrait with a mirror. In the late 18th and early 19th century, photographers embraced the art form begun by painters of the 15th century. Mechanically dependent on a mirror or other reflective surface to achieve a self-portrait, careful consideration to setting and props was a given. Isle Bing and Marianne Breslaner included cameras on tripods within their now iconic self-portraits. Claude Cahun, with the assistance of her collaborator and life-partner, Marcel Moore, captured her enigmatic reflection in a decorative wooden-braided wall-hung mirror in Autoportrait, vers 1929.
Equal parts symbolism and analogy, self-portraits are imbedded with metaphor. Mirrors once utilized as a necessary prop remain a common feature. Self-portraits are emblematic of one’s search for identity. The use of a mirror can add refraction and distortion, attributing to a feeling of mystery and ambiguity. Our ubiquitous 21st century selfie is a shallow facsimile of the bold exploration that is the self-portrait.
British photographer, Juno Calypso, deftly commands control of a mirror’s power, delivering a persistent and consistent visual punch in her self-portrait series, The Honeymoon. Embodying her alter ego, Joyce, Calypso holed up for a week in a Pocono love hotel. Under the guise of being a travel writer, she arrived solo with a suitcase of wigs, photo gear and beauty products. The culmination of a two-decade journey, Calypso allows her alter ego to lead her into the all-consuming world of ultra femininity and the obsessive labor required to become a vision of sensual flawlessness.
Calypso’s seriously ironic images simultaneously inform, intrigue and entertain. Her carefully considered and meticulously constructed tableaux are graphically pleasing. The images first appear to be alluring confections of color made for our pleasure and consumption center Joyce as a luscious human petit four. In reality, these painstakingly precise glimpses into her intimate toilette are clarion calls for our contemplation. Is she the source and recipient of her own rapture? Are we complicit participants as viewer or is she oblivious to us? The repetitive reflections increase the volume of desire and Joyce’s demand for our attention and admiration. Like a venomous snake she entrances us, fully aware of her seductive power to entangle and to pierce.
—J. Sybylla Smith