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© Jo Ann Callis

Jo Ann Callis
American, 1985
Cibachrome print
40 x 30 in.

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I wanted to allude to a person being constantly required to perform in life and to have the stage-fright fear that accompanies what we imagine are the high expectations of others. How one appears to the outside world may be different from what one feels internally.

--Jo Ann Callis

In the mid-1980s, Jo Ann Callis created a series of images that featured human figures in movement. The anonymity of the people in these fictitious scenes enables viewers to identify with them and share their seeming conflict or anxiety. The scenes she created were often domestic, and the models were dressed to carry out seemingly ordinary routines. Occasionally taking this idea of performance photography to its logical extreme, she asked her models to do magic or sideshow tricks in highly theatrical sets featuring spotlighting, heavy gold drapery, and purple backdrops. In this example, Callis invented what she called a "kind of metaphor for life." Her young model has the agility to do a handstand with no apparent strain, yet her intent, Callis says, was to have the woman "look as if she were at ease while at the same time . . . performing something that is difficult for her to carry off."