Callum Walker Hutchinson's 'Candyland' Is High Camp

Callum Walker Hutchinson's 'Candyland' Is High Camp

BYJustin MoranFeb 28, 2024

It doesn’t take long to crack the shiny surface of Los Angeles’ glitterati, revealing a much darker current that bubbles underneath. For rising photographer Callum Walker Hutchinson, who recently moved from New York to LA, this juxtaposition became the starting point of a campy photo series he calls “Candyland.” Hutchinson says “there was so much to feast on visually” in Hollywood when he first arrived. “It was like sensory overload.”

The photo concepts strive to capture that “superficial innocence” he experienced, featuring “vibrant colors that entice the viewers to look deeper to the more sinister and macabre undertones.” Familiar faces like Ella Snyder and Chloe Cherry became Hutchinson’s models, in saturated environments and over-the-top styling. Names like “Fame Monster” and “All Filler No Filter” further deepen the photographer’s exploration of this twisted celebrity city.

“Candyland” also provided an opportunity for Hutchinson to play with queer character-building and provocative self-portraits. In one shot, he’s shown buried in full glam bearing the title “Becoming Something Beautiful;” in another, Hutchinson captures himself nude covered in what initially appears to be blood until a box of strawberries in-hand suggests otherwise. This is perhaps a teaser of what’s to come from the photographer: “I want my next work to be sexier and sluttier,” he says. “Polished, refined, detail-oriented.”

Below, PAPER learns more about Callum Walker Hutchinson and “Candyland.”

All Filler No Filter

What is the larger thematic through line of this photo series? How does the name tie into that?

When I first started coming up with ideas for this series, i had just moved to Los Angeles from New York. I had spent all of COVID up until this point in like a 675 square foot apartment with my mom in Brooklyn, and surrounded by friends I had known for years. All of a sudden I was in this new city with new people and a completely different energy. There was so much to feast on visually, it was like sensory overload.

The name "Candyland" really informed the series because at that time, Los Angeles, and I mean the bubble of Los Angeles that is this industry, was this new, glossy, seductive and sweet place filled with opportunity. It was like this treat that people were addicted to, and getting this rush and high off of. However, there was always this lingering sense darkness or sadness, much like how candy quietly rots and decays your teeth without proper care. With the photographs, I wanted to make images that had this superficial innocence, and vibrant colors that enticed the viewer to look deeper to the more sinister and macabre undertones.

Death to an Old Self

How do you feel "Candyland" represents who you are as an artist and photographer, right now?

I am really falling in love with creating work that is campy and fun and colorful at first glance, but that has this darkness if you care to see it. With this series it was really important to create work that was fun to look at, like if viewers saw nothing else but these really fun images that's okay. As an artist I think it’s hard to not want to explain your work and all the details, but doing this show and hearing what people took from each photograph was really interesting and beautiful. Sometimes it was spot on and other times it was just someone being like, "This is sick," and that's great. I think it’s inspired me to make work that I love, and not try and search for a reason about why it’s good, or feel like I always need to have this deep meaning behind it.

How long did you work on this series and in what locations? Is this something you did over an extended period of time?

I started conceptualizing this series when I first moved to Los Angeles in 2021. I shot the first photo in New York funnily enough, a year later in 2022. And then the series in totality wasn’t done until November of 2023, so it was definitely a long process to say the least. As for locations besides that first photograph, I shot all around Los Angeles. They were mostly locations I’d pass on a drive, or would randomly present themselves to me and I’d be like, "I need to shoot here." One location I had to rent and one "location" was this beautiful floral landscape that Xira of Woman In Stems created, but besides that everything was just gorilla style.

Lovers Peak

What was it like shooting self-portraits and being the image subject versus shooting other people?

I fell in love with photography in high school shooting self-portraits, so I’ve always had this soft spot for it. The self-portraits, to me, were about creating work that felt really personal. It represented my inner journey of how I was navigating through all of this and the range of emotions I was feeling, so it felt very insular. Shooting other people was a reflection of what I was seeing, and each person brought their own ideas and personality to these characters, which became a really beautiful and collaborative experience. The self-portraits versus shooting other people were kind of two halves to telling this complete story, if that makes sense.

In terms of your process, did you develop the individual photo concepts and characters before shooting?

Yes, it was exactly that. I had this big deck that had a page for each little vignette, with their description, styling details, hair and makeup details. It was probably the most planned and premeditated I had ever been before a shooting anything.

The Standout

How do you choose your subjects?

I was sitting on this concept deck for about a year before I started shooting. For that year I was constantly meeting people in person or through Instagram, and I slowly started building this roster of people who I felt reminded me of the characters I had imagined in my head.

Now that this is done, where are you looking to take your photography next?

I think bigger and better. I want to really dive deeply into self-portraiture. I want my next work to be sexier and sluttier. Polished, refined, detail-oriented. I want to do more gallery shows, if possible. I worked with a great friend and wonderful curator Morgan Siskind, who made this show possible, and I would like to work with her forever if I can. But besides that I don’t know, I think making this series and doing a physical show really inspired me and lit a fire under my ass that I’m really excited about.

Click here to purchase "Candyland" and original works by Callum Walker Hutchinson.