I only found out about Sophie Calle as I’m reading the book “The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton. I was completely fascinated by the description and wanted to know more about her. She is a French woman with an amazing body of work, always acting at the intersection between public, on display and private or intimate.
Her artworks very often involved following and meetings strangers. Such as Suite Vénitienne, a book that resulted from Sophie’s following a man she met at a party.
‘For months I followed strangers in the street. For the pleasure of following them, not because they particularly interested me. I photographed them without their knowledge, took note of their movements, then finally lost sight of them and forgot them.
At the end of January 1980, on the streets of Paris, I followed a man whom I lost sight of a few minutes later in the crowd. That very evening, by chance, he was introduced to me at an opening. During the course of our conversation, he told me he was planning an imminent trip to Venice.’
She left Paris and went to Venice, trying to find this man. After finding out in what hotel did he live, she persuaded a woman who lived opposite to let Sophie photograph the man. She remained in Venice for two weeks.
A year later Sophie returned to Venice for another project. She found a job as a maid and took pictures of the hotel rooms. Then she tried to imagine who were the hotel guests, based on their objects and the way they were left in the hotel room.
“For each room there was a photograph of the bed undone, of other objects in the room, and a description day by day of what I found there.”
Sophie’s photographs are documenting her artwork, they are proofs of the process that lies beneath the image. The value of her artwork comes from the ideas behind as well as the realisation of them. The photographs are the last link in the work.
“For ‘The Hotel’ I spent one year to find the hotel, I spent three months going through the text and writing it, I spent three months going through the photographs and I spent one day deciding it would be this size and this frame…it’s the last thought in the process.”
In Chromatic Diet the artist ate every day food of only one colour, in an exercising of acting/being a character from Paul Auster’s novel “Leviathan”.
There are many other projects by Sophie Calle that are extremely interesting, intriguing and usually funny. I would love to meet Sophie, she must be such a fascinating person! Check out two of her interviews here and here.
Photos: All rights reserved by Sophie Calle