PHOTO 2024: Interview with Jo Duck
To celebrate the PHOTO 2024 International Festival of Photography Program Reveal we talk to Melbourne-based headline photographer Jo Duck.
Jo talks about the essential ingredient in bringing a vision to life, the stages of her creative process and her dream of throwing a beautifully staged parade.
What do you love most about fashion photography?
Collaboration. I like to create strange concepts to ensure my fashion work is unique and the team can have a grounded idea to always refer back to. That way we’re all on the same page, instead of creating empty and lost fashion imagery. Without the collaboration of fashion stylists, hair and make up artists and models, it would all look like a terrible B grade horror film from the 1950’s. But not in a good way.
Take us through your creative process, from ideation to creation — has this evolved or changed over time?
The way I work on concepts now is quite similar to how I created folio work while studying. I would just say I have a lot more trust in the process now.
Essentially though, I like to create characters. They’re always inspired by different elements of pop culture, overheard conversations, colour combinations, interactions with strangers, gestures and camp memories.
Once I have a concept in mind, it nags at me until I start pulling together references, doing research and making mood boards. This is actually my favourite part of the process. When odd ideas start bumping into each other and creating new ideas. If I make myself laugh in this part of the process, I know I’m onto a winner.
Once I have a clear concept, I reach out to my favourite collaborators to try and get them on board. Often the stylists I work with take my ideas and push them so much further with their interpretations and direction.
The next step is casting. I spend a lot of time scouring casting websites for the right faces for the shoot, often I’m doing callouts on social media searching for interesting people.
I spend a lot of time doing location scouts around town, looking for perfect places to help create new worlds for my characters.
Once I’ve combined all of this, I make myself physically ill constantly checking the forecast and just pray that BOM get it right and the sun comes out long enough to get everyone on set and get the shot.
What is your dream shoot, brief or client?
I would love an endless budget so I could throw a staged parade. I love the optimism of a parade! Of course I would shoot it, but I would also just enjoy attending.
There would be a fantastic horn section in matching uniforms, phenomenal costumed dancers, waving women on swans, choreography, big silly floats, obviously a great drum line and just sheer jubilance.
Jean Paul Goude once orchestrated a parade in Paris. Is it too much to ask?
What ideas or themes do you want to explore next?
I’m just finishing up my PHOTO 2024 series on facial recognition technology which I have loved and also made myself terrified during the process. I think these ideas will be sticking with me for a little while.
I’ve also been very inspired recently by cartoons of the 1930s, people waving from cruise ships, fortunes and dramatic fainting.
When you’re not working, what do you enjoy doing?
Being with family and friends, visiting galleries, buying records, watching strangers.
I’ve always had this idea that ‘in the future’ I’d join a choir. I think there are so many things we all think we’ll do when the time is just right. I realised there was never going to be a right time, so I joined a choir this year and I love it.
Lastly, what are you working on next and where should people follow you to see more of your work?
Working on my PHOTO 2024 series has been such a joyous and incredible experience, but has also involved a lot of co-ordination of many, many different schedules.
My next immediate personal project is likely to be shot without a single person in it to ensure I won’t have to wrangle anyone’s diary!