Sophie Calle is fascinated by the interface between our public lives and our private selves. This has led her to investigate patterns of behaviour using techniques akin to those of a private investigator, a psychologist, or a forensic scientist. It has also led her to investigate her own behaviour so that her life, as lived and as imagined, has informed many of her most interesting works.
Calle’s very first work involved following strangers around Paris. Calle had been abroad for a number of years and the idea behind this surveillance was initially an attempt to reacquaint herself with the city. However, she soon discovered that observing the behaviour and actions of these strangers provided information with which to construct their identities.
Suite Venitienne, first realised in 1980, developed this idea in the form of a diary, comprising photographs and texts, detailing Calle’s observations of a stranger whom she followed, in disguise, during his trip from Paris to Venice. In l’Homme au carnet of 1983 Calle elicited the active collaboration of individuals. Having found the address book of one Pierre D, Calle photocopied the contents before returning it to its owner. She then visited and interviewed the people listed, in order to build up a profile of its owner from their descriptions and anecdotes. The results were published in Liberation. At around the same time Calle herself became the willing subject of such investigations. In 1981 at Calle’s request, her mother hired a private detective to follow her daughter, photograph her in secret and record her every movement. It was, in Calle’s words, an attempt ‘to provide photographic evidence of my own existence’.
The Sleepers 1979
In 1979, Sophie Calle asked several (23) persons, friends, strangers, neighbors, to come and spend eight hours in her bed in order to keep this bed occupied twenty-four hours a day. These people had to accept to be photographed and to answer some questions. She took photographs of the sleepers and noted the important elements of these short meetings: subjects of discussion, positions of the sleepers, their movements during their sleep, the detailed menu of their breakfast she was preparing for them.
Take Care of Yourself 2007