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Sophie Calle: French Artist Or Predator

1280 words - 6 pages

Sophie Calle, professor of film and photography at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, is a renowned contemporary French artist. Sophie Calle is also a photographer of considerable acumen. As an educationist she has taught photography since 2005 at post-graduate level. Born in Paris, France in October of 1953, Sophie Calle is daughter to the also renowned Robert Calle. In her biography posted on the university page (, it is claimed that the early associations and integration into her father’s social circles exposed her to a number of artists who influenced her decision to become an artist herself. Sophie Calle became an artist back in the 70’s and has ...view middle of the document...

At the beginning of her book: ‘Suite venitienne’, Sophie Calle (2), said that she simply followed people she met on the streets, not because of any particular interest she felt but simply because it pleased her. She further goes on to say that she would take photographs of these people, take notes on them and then forget about them. The next paragraphs described one of such occurrences where she followed a man as far as Venice. The description stated is a typical example of how Sophie works, the stalking of her victims characterize her works as is apparent in their production. Yve-Alain Bois described her work to be of voyeuristic and exhibitionist nature, as well as characterised by distance and obscure angles.

Source: Sophie Calle (1988)
One can observe from the picture above the qualities already described above. The man in these pictures was apparently taken at such times when he was unaware. The pictures culled from her book ‘Suite venitienne’ depict images where the objects are taken from distances and angles to suggest a pattern whereby the people in them are being covertly observed. It is in fact reminiscent of “spy- shots” usually taken by agents of espionage when tracking suspects. All the pictures are depicted from side of rear angles where the photographer could not be observed by the object. This predatory feature is the hallmark of Sophie’s photography.
In his article, Yve-Alain Bois states that Sophie, from the quality and nature of her pictures had little interest in photography, he opined that the real motivation behind her work lay in the sleuth- like role her methods afforded. He further describes her interest to be ‘voyeuristic’ and ‘predatory’. In her book The Hotel (1981), Sophie works as a chambermaid in a Venetian Hotel, she uses the considerable access this position offers to make a study of the hotel tenants through their photographs; she would meticulously search an occupied room going through the guest’s luggage, diary, and garbage and then record her findings (Nicola Whelan, 5-6). Nicola Whelan (6) explains these actions of Sophie to be a utilization of photography to make a documentary of the hotel’s various guests, piecing together through imagination those parts of their lives unknown to her. One may conclude, in view of Sophie’s method, that she is a collector- of experiences, events, lives- which she records through her photography.
When analyzing Sophie Calle’s methods, her voyeuristic and predatory techniques, of photography one cannot but call to question the nature of her artist’s code of ethics and her moral inclination or its lack thereof. Sophie’s seems not to recognize any boundaries in the act of invading ones privacy, it would seem that she simply plods ahead once she sets her mind on a new adventure. In effect...

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