Assignment 4: Sophie Calle

Sophie Calle was born in France in 1953.  She began as a simple photographer in the 1970’s and accumulated her career into an outstanding and talented conceptual artist as a writer, photographer, and director.  Her work is based on the surveillance and studies of complete strangers and their personal lives weaving in and out of happiness and sadness.  Currently living in Paris, Calle has worked as an artist for more than twenty-five years. She has had more than sixty solo exhibitions, including shows at the Tate Gallery in London; Centre George Pompidou in Paris; Sprengel Museum in Germany; and Hana Museum of Contemporary Art inTokyo. Her work has been in over 130 group shows, including the Museum of Contemporary Photography’s exhibition The Furtive Gaze in 2000. Her videos have been screened at ICA, London; Whitney Biennial, New York; and the New York Film Festival.

For over 30 years, her work has resembled scenes from her personal life; mostly of the time when her boyfriend broke up with her through an email.   Many of her photographs picture that email and her sad face.  She explains to many people in interviews that her work is also her life.  Many may have a problem with the fact that she throws herself out there for people to comment on or dislike.  She is open to the idea that her life is open to everyone.

Sophie Calle’s work is also distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints and evokes the French literary movement of the 1960s known as Oulipo. Her work frequently depicts human vulnerability and looks deeply into identity and intimacy. She is recognized for her detective-like ability to follow strangers and investigate their private lives. Her photographic work often includes panels of text of her own writing, or the email sent by her ex-lover.

What is seen in these photographs are emotions and feelings that took place in Sophie’s mind after reading the email from her ex-boyfriend.  All of these photos capture the email in some way.  The first photo is the email on her face, on her mind, on her heart, on her hand, which all affect the body parts in a similar way.  The next photo has the French words on her lips, on her neck, and on her chest.  It shows affection, sex, and a love/hate feeling toward the words of the email.  The third photograph shows her in bed, waking up to those words every morning, knowing they were said and cannot be taken back.  It is a feeling of depression, hatred, anger, exhaustion, and confusion.  The model in the picture is not happy, looks elegant, beautiful, and angelic, but still has no peace of mind.  In these photographs, Sophie challenges the relationship between text and photography.  The words play a certain role in these photographs as they resemble her personal life as a woman with a broken heart. 

Sophie became very involved with her own life.  She was devastated, sad, and angry at the time of her photographic career.  She had her mother send out a detective to take photos of her everyday life and become the subjects in all of her art.  She wanted the world to see her life through her photography.  She wanted to become personal in her work.

What amazes me is her book Take Care of Yourself.  This book contains 107 interpretations of the email that she had received from her ex-lover.  These interpretations are all by women and contain observations, questions, comments, and words, showing their view and standpoint on the email.

Since the closest spot of her exhibitions to Illinois are in New York, I was only able to provide links to the websites that have the photographs shown in the exhibitions.  There are also some links to websites that sell her books, especially Take Care of Yourself.  Her work is beautiful, and if I ever travel to New York, I would definitely want to take a look at some of her exhibits.–art–monographs–calle–sophie.html


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