Sophie Calle Picture analysis

A quote from the Tate modern biography of Sophie Calle; 

‘Her work exists on the boarders of photographic and conceptual art. Her working is rarely aesthetic in a pictorial sense, steaming from her curiosity with an idea or action.’

The idea’s and thoughts behind following someone and covertly photographing their movements, allows the images to fall into the conceptual art category.

The portrayal of the ‘idea’ is more important than the image’s aesthetic or the quality of the image. Having the idea or inspiration, then following it through is placed in higher regard than the photographers skill or technical expertise.

Conceptual art coexists next to surrealism in photograph as they are both based on a thought or idea’s, either from dreams or a deeper desire or fantasy.

Such images naturally invoke certain moral and ethical question to the viewing public.

You are either your the ‘watcher’ or being ‘watched’ either way you have entered into the shadowy world of espionage, which, depending on the individual, could very easily become something more sinister or escalate to something more developed, depending of the mental makeup of the individual.

The image’s can promote a sense of intimacy between subject and photographer. Lust, jealousy, desire, obsession are just some of the word that fill the mind when examining these image’s and looking beyond them.

For me to re-create similar images in a real sense, they would be born of jealousy and obsession towards a lover. Fear of loss, betrayal of trust or a search for the truth would be at the epicentre of any ideas and photography. The act of creating these image’s, myself, would lay bare the deepest and darkest fear of my psyche that are hidden from view. I would personally feel that I was close to a nervous breakdown if I even considered staking my wife for example.

Such idea’s, for myself seam dangerous and dark, feeding on a deep human emotion of a betrayal of trust. But they would also be existing image’s to take, the risk of getting seen, getting too close as the photographer storks his subject thought the city street. If ‘Joe or Chummy’ is watchful of his or her surroundings, following them could be tricky but all the more challenging in the pursuit of pray.

Here’s the moral dilemma: Start following some random around and if they catch you, you could be in for a belting. A man follows a woman around and you could get lifted by the law if seen and caught. This is where I feel Sophie has ‘played it safe’ with the whole idea.

Friends, work and family find out you’ve been following folks around, even in the name of ‘Photography’ you’re going to have some explaining to do!

Which in my head bring’s this full circle, for me I’d need a reason or a target to go about re-creating this for photography. Jealousy or better still being paid to do this would be the only legitimate way in my head I’d look to this for photography.

In s strange way, she has taken an element of danger out of the photo’s by hiring the guy. If she got rumbled while taking these photo’s, she had a get out clause up her sleeve by saying simply ‘I hired you’ is a great way to make sure there isn’t any come back if you get caught.

For me this is all about getting caught or not getting caught. There’s a fun way of doing this, but that is heavily contrived and becomes pointless in a photography sence because you’ve lost the original idea or a far darker way.

These images and the collection as a whole, thinly gloss over a shadowy world of jealousy and deceit between people. This can also be used as a control weapon over a person, which to me is a form of fear control. Like I said at the start, the collection and idea behind these images naturally invoke certain moral and ethical question to the viewing public.

If the whole thing is based on the idea, as opposed to the image quality. I feel it is correct to evaluate the images in such an ethical way. I feel these images may offer a watered down view, more readily expectable to the public, rather than a truer impression as to what is really happening everyday to people across the world

The artist is merle playing a little game. You throw in, jealousy, lust, obsession and her game becomes very real.

I think what I am alluding to here really is, it’s too safe. Too express this in it’s truest seance, she need to go darker, with the fuel for the whole concept fired by jealousy, lust, obsession to gain a grittier, more real glimpse into this world.

Dave Watts.



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