Meet JUCO, LA based photography duo Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud

Art Director Gem Fletcher introduces us to the work of creative duo JUCO, who have been making waves in LA photographing everyone from Janelle Monáe and Kim Kardashian to Tyler the Creator

The stereotype of the photographer is as a lone ego, the emphasis placed on the singular potency of the individual holding the camera.

Photographic duos, however, can produce a magnetic push and pull effect, a critical balance of energy and ideas. JUCO, the Los Angeles-based partnership of Julia Galdo and Cody Cloud was born in a lighting class while the pair studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. They are now busy making a name for themselves across the commercial and editorial world with their bold, kaleidoscopic, character-driven work.

The pair came to photography in unusual ways. Galdo trained as a marine biologist, discovering she had a talent for the medium by happenstance after taking a few classes for fun, while Cloud was introduced by a hobbyist family friend who would take him out on photo adventures at the weekends during his late teens. After graduation, he went on to assist fashion photographers, while she pursued a career in advertising. Both experiences informed how they run their business. “We have our strengths and weaknesses within the team,” the say. “My experience as an art director taught me how to pitch and tell stories, while Cody knows how to navigate a set and is exceptionally technical.”

Janelle Monáe, shot for her Dirty Computer album campaign
Album art for Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer

Their vibrant, character-driven aesthetic is always dialled to the max, undeniably influenced by the searing colours of Guy Bourdin, the surrealist edge of Tim Walker and a mash-up of personal influences from their upbringing. “We have a wide range of interests from South-Central [LA] airbrush culture to thrift stores, everything from roller rinks to cowboys. I grew up on South Beach, so I’ve been informed a lot by the Latin ghetto-fabulous aesthetic. Together these exposures play a key role in our work.” These influences have shaped attention-grabbing editorials for The New Yorker, Time and Vogue photographing everyone from Kim Kardashian to Tyler the Creator.

Working as a duo has its own unique set of challenges. Who has control? How is power balanced? Are the roles defined or fluid? For JUCO, a balance of pragmatism and flexibility are essential. “We play to our strengths,” Galdo says. “On set I work closely with the client and supporting our subject through the process of getting ready, while Cody works with the tech crew on lighting and set up. Once we start shooting, there is no formal structure, we both shoot and respond to the subject. We also try to be reactive to the subject, if they respond better to one of us, then they will lead, sometimes we shoot half the story each, and on occasion one of us shoots, and the other art directs if the set up is particularly complex.”

Constance Wu, star of Crazy Rich Asians, for the cover of Time magazine

While the creative possibilities are endless, what truly binds JUCO together is the mental support they provide each other with throughout the trials and tribulations of the creative process. Communication is the backbone of their creative partnership.

“Before JUCO, I worked as a solo photographer, and it was very easy to get in your head, beat yourself up and have major self-doubt. I think it gets amplified when it’s internalised; it can be so easy to fall into negative thought patterns,” Galdo continues. “As a duo, any creative conversation is happening externally, the dialogue has to happen between us and the conversations are more grounded. We’ve been through a lot together, we’ve done great shoots and had bad shoots, and we’ve got through it. It’s incredible to have a partner in this work and not do it alone.”, @jucophoto; Gem Fletcher is a photographic and film art director. Her Exposure column on new photography appears monthly in CR, in print and online., @gemfletcher