Sophie Calle (b. October 1953) is an award-winning French photographer, conceptual artist and writer. Throughout her prolific career, Calle’s work has come to be characterised by its creativity and playfulness. Her projects delve both into provocatively intimate subject matter in addition to a more conceptual questions of ‘how to document absence’. In Take Care of Yourself (2007), Calle takes a personal break-up letter and distributes it to over 100 women — using their analyses as a form of grief, emancipation and creative release. In Suite Vénitienne, (1980, 1996) Calle stalks a man she just met around Venice, photographing him and the things she saw along the way. In The Detachment (1996), Calle explores the memories of the lost GDR by interviewing passers-by in Berlin about absent memorials. Comparisons have been drawn between Calle’s wandering, enigmatic style and that of the Oulipo school, a movement emerging from 1960s France that sought to create art through constraint. It may also seem apt to call Calle a flâneuse — but such categorisations diminish the strength and generative power of her artistic production — a style that Baudrillard describes in his afterword to Suite Vénitienne as “removing herself from her own life, inserting others into it”. Indeed, while Calle’s work might be formally quite banal, its conceptual power is unparalleled, and she has pathed the way for a generation of conceptual photographers.
By Erin Lynch