Jo Ann Callis, renowned for her fabricated photography work in the 1970s and ’80s, recently revealed a trove of early fetishized constructs she had deemed “too hot.”
Well, at first I thought it was because they were too “hot.” Or they were too emotional — they weren’t cool like a lot of the conceptual work. They were very formal, aesthetic — all the things that weren’t in vogue at the time. So, that was initially why. But mostly I was just interested in other things. I went on using some of the same ideas: like tactility, how something feels, and how you can represent a thought in a photograph just using a straight negative — not putting it out of focus on purpose, just seeing what kinds of metaphors I could create. But I think it was the sexuality in them, and I just lost my nerve.
Callis, whose best-known work comprised beautiful, uncomfortably skewed nudes and elemental expressions of the body, maintained a constant aesthetic throughout much of her career, which saw its first major exposure via the 1981 Whitney Biennial.
Fast-forward to 2009 and preparations for a Getty retrospective, Callis recalled being asked by Senior Curator of Photographs Judith Keller if there were any images of hers they hadn’t seen.
“And I said, ‘No, that’s it,’” Callis told New York Magazine. “I just pretended they didn’t exist, because even at that time I just didn’t think this was appropriate to show at the Getty — and I didn’t think they would be interested in it.”