The Photographic Journal

JUCO

Interview 010 • Jun 20th 2013

Foreword

JUCO is the collaborative work of Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud, a partnership that brilliantly balances the razor’s edge of creative collaboration. JUCO’s differences make them stronger while the similarities and their mutual respect bind them together. This duality forms the backbone of their process, laying the groundwork for all they create.

Interview

 

How did you two meet and start working together?

Cody Cloud

We met in school, we had a lighting class together. I was doing my MSA and Julia was doing her BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Julia Galdo

We started working together on class assignments and then after graduation we worked together splitting gear rentals and production costs as well as tasks. It was mainly because we were broke and didn’t know how else to do it. After a while of doing that we just developed a voice that made sense to market. That’s how we got going on JUCO.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

How does the partnership break down between the two of you?

Julia

It’s definitely a melding of minds. It’s something that’s evolving. It changes from project to project. Certain things require more of Cody’s strengths and other projects will require my strengths.

It always starts as a creative discussion. On the day of the shoot we often break off. Cody works a lot with our assistant team, our digital techs, and getting our shot setup, while I work with our clients or walking our subjects through the process of getting ready.

Once we start, we both shoot with one camera, passing it back and forth — but it really is different on every project. There are times where one of us won’t shoot,because one of us needs to art direct or facilitate some other aspect of the project.

There’s a consistent quality in your work, even across different clients and genres.

Cody

It comes pretty naturally, until we make the conscious decision to go in a different direction. You can’t always keep doing the exact same style the whole time. For us it hasn’t been a problem yet. We’re both attracted to colorful and graphic elements in our work.

Julia

I feel like we talk about this a lot. Working on a team is a huge luxury. Most photographers and creatives can second-guess the creative dialogue in their head. “Is this right? Am I going in the right direction? Does this feel real? Am I doing the right thing?” That conversation has to happen externally between both of us — about our careers, about the work that we want to make, about the work we are making. That conversation is something that’s always on the table — for every project and every month that passes.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

For Air Canada’s enRoute Magazine.

In having those conversations are you able to sense of where both of you have grown over the course of the partnership?

Julia

I feel like there’s been a lot of movement. We’ve been working together for years and years, unofficially, and for four years as JUCO. For example, we’ve gone from wanting to be taken very seriously and in turn taking ourselves very seriously — to wanting to feel candid, natural, and effortless — and back again. We have those kinds of conversations all the time. “Who are our clients? Who do we want our clients to be? How do we get there? What’s the work that we’re making now? How do we get it to feel earnest?” I think those are the kind of questions that we ask ourselves that really drive our decisions.

Cody

It’s almost a daily process. On every job we’ll find a new production flaw, something that we swear never to do again. We’re constantly learning new ways to function, to be more professional, and to be more efficient.

In not having a traditional name, you’ve been able to create an identity larger than just the two of you. Was that a conscious decision?

Julia

When we first started out, most of the work we were doing were underpaid editorials. It seemed ridiculous for us to be listed for a quarter page image as“Julia Galdo & Cody Cloud.” I feel like that led to our initial thought process. We just wanted something that was shorter and more concise so it didn’t always have to be spelled out.

But it’s evolved into people viewing us as an entity. We don’t necessarily get treated like photographers. We get treated as a creative entity, which has worked to our benefit. That was something that we didn’t really foresee.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Aubrey Plaza for Complex

 

What do your feel have been some of biggest lessons for JUCO?

Cody

I feel like you just have to double-check everybody…

Julia

That’s a good one, but that’s a harsh truth dude. “I just don’t trust anyone, and I always have to double check everything.”

Cody

But you know what I mean… You feel like you hire someone to do a job — and I’m not trying to be mean to them — but in reality the direction they took maybe wasn’t exactly what you wanted. You have to really lay it out for them in order to have consistency.

We went on this job and hired this digital tech. He shows up on the shoot and tells me he’s never used that camera before. When I hired him I didn’t think to ask “Have you ever worked with Nikon?” I’d just assumed since he’s a professional digi-tech, and I was paying him good money, that he was going to know his shit.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

  1. Tinsel Town for FOAM Magazine
  2. Katie from FORD Mountain Lion Ranch

Julia

I have a positive learning experience through the whole creative dialogue I mentioned earlier.

At the start of your career, you walk into situations open-minded and take images that feel whimsical, earnest, and very real. As you become a professional and start getting assignments with restrictions — on time, color, or dimensions — and you start thinking into these really planned out, dialed in, creative environments.

For a while we kind of trained ourselves to be really planned out, to have every detail taken care of. The lighting; the color of the dress; everything had to be planned out. But it’s been a great learning experience because both of us were feeling like our work was getting stale, or not feeling as genuine as it had three or four years ago when the stakes weren’t as high.

The lesson we’ve been learning is to have a plan, but also have the balance to look at the situation you’ve created with an unmarried eye — so you can actually see things that you weren’t expecting, to capture that whimsical moment. If you’re always dialing everything in, if you’re always planning it, then there’s little room left for magic. You have to let go of your expectations to be able to see the unexpected.

(To Cody) That’s a positive one right?

Cody

That was great.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. for Warner Bros. Records. Sick set design by Adi Goodrich.

 

You beat me to the punch. I was going to ask about the transition from shooting for fun, to shooting for a client.

Julia

There’s also that facet of shooting for a client and having to deal with your own ego, and your own creative mind. He and I struggle with that even today and we’re a lot more respected as a photography duo. Even two or three years ago we would go to meetings and people would be like “Who are you? Where are from again?” Now people know our work and know what to expect.

But we still have these struggles where we have one vision, and the client has their own, and they’re not linking up. So where does my creative ego go? How do I bridge that gap? I think Cody and I have both discovered that in situations where we’re pushed into a spot we’d rather not be in, we find that unexpected thing where we turn to the left and do what we want, and the turn back again and capture what the client is wanting. So we get both. One for us, and one for them.

If you’re always dialing everything in, if you’re always planning it, then there’s little room left for magic.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

  1. Personal
  2. Initiation for The Lab Magazine

Are there personal projects you two are exploring to mix it up?

Cody

We try to make time for it because it’s really important to both of us. We definitely have a basketful of ideas that we want to explore. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have our own ideas worked into paid gigs. It’s a good feeling.

Julia

Right now we’ve consciously made a choice to take a break and not just say yes to everything that comes in. We want to choose our projects a little more carefully. Right now we have three personal projects going on, but things that we’re doing together as JUCO, not personal projects that we’re doing separately.

I feel like we’re both so active in our business that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for us to create our own personal art that we want to explore. But both of us would like to get there at some point.

If you work all the time, if you never have free time off then it’s like Uroboros — the work eats itself. You don’t get nourishment for your creative spirit. The same thing goes for us together. The thing that makes JUCO work is having our own perspectives. If we lose our own perspective because we’re always together then we’re losing our voice. We both have our own personal lives where we do things apart from each other. We’re both very different people. That balance is something I think we need to work on, so when we come back together as JUCO we’re making stronger work.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

For Lulu’s Spring 2013 Campaign

What are sources you two look at for inspiration, for a fresh perspective?

I watch a lot of movies and listen to a lot of music. I’m pretty easily inspired. I just kind of go for a walk. It’s a weekly thing. I’ll have a new band in my head or a new movie I’m kind of into.’ first=”]

Julia

We’re both very lucky. We have a lot of friends in common who are artists in one way, shape, or form. We’re constantly surrounded by people who are making mind-blowing shit all the time. It’s really wonderful to be part of that community.

For me personally right now, I feel like I have a new soul. Since we’ve had a little bit more down time from work, I’ve been taking ceramics classes and dance classes. Cody has been taking Yoga classes. Having and running JUCO has been such a full time job, so all consuming of both of our lives for so long, that right now we’ve hired people to help us support JUCO, so we can expand and have things within our lives that refresh us.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Chris Brown for XXL

In JUCO’s expanding sphere of influence, your work is reach is now entering the realm of popular culture, being featured on celebrity blogs and fashion shows. Does that change your perspective at all? Is it something you’re aware of?

Cody

It doesn’t feel real.

Julia

I kind of don’t know that it exists. I feel like it’s all based on a perspective. Where we’re sitting right now, we’re still feeling like we have so much work to do…

(To Cody) I mean I feel this way, I don’t know about you…

Cody

For sure.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Flight Patterns for San Francisco Magazine

Julia

People are like “Oh, you’re such a success.” But we don’t feel like that. We feel like there are all these photographers that we look up to, that are the real successes, doing way more compelling work.

It’s hard to take notice of a blog, or a TV show with rad drag queens talking about our shoots and take that as some sign that we’re doing well, or even getting there. Internally we feel like “Where is there?”

We’re definitely not there, and feel we have a lot of growing to do.

We talk about how we create this work, we put it out there, and we’re not really sure what it does after that. It obviously has a life of its own, because it’s out there circulating, but we never really know for sure. We always hope it does something cool. We feel great about the images we’re putting out, but beyond that we don’t know what’s going on with it.

I spoke with Aaron Feaver about that once, about how being “Internet famous” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re succeeding in the way an artist measures it.

Julia

I mean being Internet famous fucking scares me. That’s not what either one of us wants. We talk about this all the time. We’ve spent months in advance on some of our projects, planning and talking and planning and talking and then producing the work — it’s very dear to us. We’ll put it out on the Internet, and it comes and goes very quickly…

Cody

It’s old in a week.

Julia

I’m not trying to compare our work in any way, but when you look at Richard Avedon or Helmut Newton, people are looking at those images 40 years and 50 years later. It made such a lasting impression on people. I feel like so much work is being produced now, but it doesn’t have any staying power.

I feel like anyone who says to themselves “I want to be Internet famous” as their goal has the wrong idea. People who are famous on Instagram right now get hit up to do a job, and get some money out of it, but you and I both know that Instagram will eventually phase out, and Vine will phase in, and Facebook will phase out and something else will phase in… Flickr phased out and Instagram phased in. None of it is real. It doesn’t have real staying power. So building off a metric of inflated fame is just false. I’m not saying my work is truly great but there are works that are, and they have far more power than something that got 125,000 likes on Instagram.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

For S Magazine

How did both of you end up in the San Francisco Art Institute?

Cody

I didn’t want to go to grad school on the east coast because it was too cold, so I went to San Francisco which I then found out was cold… So now I live in L.A.

I had a professor that recommended I go to the San Francisco Art Institute, so I did.

Julia

I was going to FIU in Miami in a science program there, but was taking photography classes on the side and had a super cool and very crazy photography professor. She encouraged me to take the leap. I knew I didn’t want to go to NYC for art school so I did an exchange program through FIU for my sophomore year in the Bay Area.

During that year I went up and down the coast looking and applying with art schools. San Francisco Art Institute had a really dreamy quality to it. It’s got such a crazy reputation to it. The fact that Ansel Adams started the photography department and that all these greats passed through those doors is just really inspiring. But they also gave me the opportunity, financially, to go. They helped me with a scholarship, and were willing to take my credits from FIU so I wouldn’t have to take math and science again.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal

Drawing with Devendra for The Lab Magazine

Was there a turning point, from just renting equipment together to really knowing JUCO would becomes something bigger?

Cody

I was always optimistic. I always kind of knew it was going to work out.

Julia

For me, Cody was down here in LA assisting and I was up in San Francisco working for an advertising agency. We started to date each other and then I lost my job and got a severance and unemployment. We had already been talking about JUCO and really wanting to make it a reality. So as I moved on, I didn’t get another job and I moved down to LA. It wasn’t the moment where I thought “Ok, this is going to work” — but it definitely was where I said to myself “Ok, we’re going to do this now.”

So we made a website, designed a logo, and it came to fruition. When we got our first rep, that was another moment where I felt like things were happening for us. Shortly after signing with our agent, we got two huge, literally back-to-back ad jobs; where we finished one, got on a red eye, and then were at the next one. It was, for me, like the craziest moment and we’ve kind of been going hard ever since.

Those were two major points in time, at least for me. Cody’s always optimistic. (laughs)

What do you feel the next big thing is for JUCO?

Cody

We’re trying to just get a studio, so we can have an office that’s not in the house.

But we just really want to do good work.

Julia

We want to make better work than we’re making now. We want to be better than we are now and learn from our mistakes. We want to work with better creatives on bigger projects.

Again, it’s the ‘artist’s thing’ where it’s not for something… it’s just what you want to do and what comes naturally. We want to be doing more work like that. I think eventually — not now but in the future — we’d like to work with other creatives to become a small full service boutique agency or design collective.

Would you want to grow into something else, or just expand what you’re doing now?

Julia

I think what we do already is art direct a lot of our shoots which is what has led us to really be perceived as a creative entity. Essentially, we want to solve creative problems in our way instead of being told how solve them. We want to just solve them ourselves. Like I’d mentioned before, we’re surrounded by so many talented people — we know writers, we know directors, we know set designers, we have excellent designers in our back pocket…

Cody

Friends.

Julia

Friends and resources on our side. And we feel so comfortable working with them that essentially what we want to be doing is taking it the whole way. From the moment that it’s an idea to the moment that it’s a printed piece in your hand, or whatever it needs to be for the client.

Interview 010: JUCO for The Photographic Journal