Questions and answers with Jo Duck.

{April 2020}

Title: Cowboys at Sunset
Home: Melbourne

Where was the final image from this photoshoot featured?

'Romantic Boys' exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography in 2019.

Give us a bit of background on the photoshoot concept.

I was looking at the cliches of both masculinity and romance. The series is an observation on what we’ve been sold as the perfect combination of hard and soft; the ‘ultimate man’. But when the stereotypes of 'hard' masculinity are combined with 'soft' romance, these images come off as a camp, sometimes sleazy, and often tongue-in-cheek exploration of what it’s like to be the ultimate man in love. It’s John Wayne taking a bubble bath by candlelight.

Why did you/your client choose the final image compared to the outtakes?

As you can see, I don't have that many outtakes here. The shoot went for about 2 hours where I shot over 800 frames and some video. I'm really big on pre-production, so I heavily storyboard all my ideas before the shoot. This one, being for an exhibition and not part of a fashion editorial, was quick and relatively simple because I knew exactly what I wanted the guys to do. I had briefed stylist Abby Bennett about what kind of cowboy attire I wanted them in and was way more involved in the costume/styling element than I would normally be. I had scouted the location and knew what time we'd be shooting. I also had a collection of cowboy line dancing poses at the ready and made these poor beautiful cowboys do some boot scooting by sunset as well as walking around each other then 'pow pow-ing' their 'guns' when I said so.

Any cheeky moments during this photoshoot that you'd be willing to share?

While I was waiting for the talent to arrive, I noticed a lot of brides just walking around starring at me. And not in a nice way. Apparently this location is a hot spot for pre-wedding portraits. In one of the outtakes you can see a couple in the right of the image (I left them in to show you!). These poor couples and photographers would walk around the rocks hoping to shoot there, and instead walked into a very camp scene where two cowboys were being yelled at by a short girl to 'POW POW!' and 'Do-si-do to the left!' while 'Achy break heart' was blasted out of a phone into a cup to project the sound. I didn't realise how many portraits we may have ruined until we left this spot and there were literally 20 brides all along the beach. Whoops.

Have you ever experienced a fanboy/girl moment?

I was pretty thrilled to meet Gary Payton in 1996.

Shed some light on how you got involved in photography.

My Dad was an amateur photographer and I started going to some really dorky camera club meetings with him when I was about 15 (50 years younger than anyone else in the room) where I started playing around with my camera. They didn't offer photography at my high school but as soon as I finished, I went straight to Photography Studies College for three years.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Films, aliens, colour combinations, stupidity, old hollywood, conspiracy theories, weirdos, camp pop culture. The love boat.

What’s it like being on set with you?

Probably a bit weird for some. A lot of my editorials have very specific and kinda weird concepts behind them, they're usually referencing aliens in some way. I think once stylists, make up and hair stylists and assistants, etc. have worked with me a few times, they know what to expect. I like to give models a character and to collaborate. Most models really like to have the direction and to understand the concept so they feel more involved and have some intention behind the way they move. Some people couldn't care less about the concept, but as long as they're making the pictures from inside my head come to life that doesn't bother me! Commercial sets are different of course. I don't talk about aliens anywhere near as much, but I make a mean playlist.

Do you prefer photographing with a big or small team on set?

Depends on the project, but I definitely enjoy a smaller team.

Describe your ideal photoshoot.

Working with like-minded people on a concept that everyone is invested in. Good music, good people, resulting in great pictures. Oh, and great catering!

What makes a photograph special, in your opinion?

If the process of taking a photo (for my personal work) makes me laugh, then I know I'm doing the right thing.

Express what photography means to you.

I feel like I'm really lucky to be a photographer. I love meeting people, I love collaboration, creating things, storytelling and I love visual language. Combining all of those elements and making my stupid ideas come to life brings me so much joy. An example - as part of the 'Romantic Boys' exhibition, I collaborated with stylist Elle Packham. We were both enjoying the aesthetics of groups of people standing together at pedestrian crossings or gathering in front of an office building if a fire alarm is pulled, etc. We were interested in the way they interact and visually just how they look. I wanted to photograph and film a group of men for this exhibition. I wanted to incorporate the romantic element of music and being serenaded and also look at something masculine that unites some men - baldness. I cast 7 bald men from various sources, and on a Saturday morning in the studio, I had them all sing 'That's Amore' by Dean Martin and my heart was so full. It was just a bunch of strangers, doing something strange and funny, and they were having a great time. That is what makes me incredibly happy and is what I can do thanks to photography. I'm not sure what other career could have me doing that on a Saturday then shooting a campaign on a Monday. Photography makes me really happy.

Do you photograph full-time? If not, what pays the bills?

Photography all the way ba-bay.

Instagram and photography...need we say more? Give us your two cents.

I use instagram myself to promote my work and have had a lot of great interactions with people thanks to Instagram, but I find that 'Instagram' aesthetic really bleurgh and uninspiring. I use it as a way to cast people for projects, to promote exhibitions and to connect with other creatives. I'm for it.

Do you have any suggestions to budding photographers out there?

Trying to imitate other photographers work might help you to learn, but once you find your own style, lean into it and celebrate your difference.

Any additional info you'd like to share about yourself and/or your photography?

I can do a one-handed cartwheel and I'm very good at drinking Prosecco.

We obviously believe this outtakes concept is brilliant, but why do you think it's important for outtake photographs to be promoted in the industry?

I love this concept! And, I have to admit, once I saw how many outtakes everyone else had I started to feel a bit anxious because I don't have anywhere near as many. But everyone works really differently and I think THAT is exciting. I never assisted so I don't really know what other photographers are like on set. I feel like outtakes give you a sneak peek at the creative process and it's something we rarely see.

Anything you're working towards with your next move in photography?

I'm always obsessed with something and I love figuring out how to create an editorial or personal work from the things I'm interested in at the time. I'm still very into the romance and masculinity themes so I'm working on new ways of exploring those.

Share a quote you live by.

"Everything you see I owe to spaghetti"
~Sophia Loren


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