Sophie Calle is an interesting and unusual photojournalist. In many situations she does not operate a camera to capture her photographic images and may not be the actual writer of the associated text. Yet Calle was awarded the Hasselblad Award in 2010 for just that. As a further contradiction she states in her Introduction to her book True Stores, “In my work it is the text that has counted most.” As a journalist her favorite subject is depicting herself. Her entire formal photographic education occurred on the first day of her first photographic class when she realized that photography was about pointing a camera in the direction she intended but equally important was her vision of what she wanted to capture. No need for her to spend a second day.
Neither the mechanics of the camera or the nuances of the photographic process holds very much interest for her. Paramount is the concept that a photograph in juxtaposition with text could establish a powerful contextual relationship. She does have opinions about the subject’s content and how it is framed within the photographic borders. It is her desire to capture and illustration of an object, typically in a non-dramatic style or in numerous cases her self-portraits. As such she is a photographic director similar to Gregory Crewdson and Edward Ruscha, who does not necessarily feel the need to press a shutter release or even determine the exposure for her photograph to validate that she is a photographer. She does feel an ultimate responsibility to the ensuing photographic image. She knows what she desires the photographic to entail.
Calle’s methodology of coupling photographs with text was inspired by the combination of photographs and text by Duane Michals that were in her father’s collection and displayed in his home. As she shares the use of this combination was initially chosen to seek her father’s attention; then she subsequently realized the potential of these combinations and it became a trademark of her oeuvre.
For the Hasselblad Award exhibition and photobook she selected images and text from an ongoing project True Stories (aka The Autobiographies/Les Autobiographies). Calle categorizes as a story where she juxtapositions text and photograph paired across the book’s spread. She has included her earlier work The Husband; 10 Stories. This narrative spans one relationship with the titles of The Resolution, The Hostage, The Argument, Amnesia, The Erection, The Rival, The Fake Marriage, The Break-up, The Divorce, and concludes with The Other. The photograph/text run from the Freudian of Amnesia when she states she never remembers the color of a man’s eyes or the shape and size of his sex, and the paired photograph is a frontal posed man, prone, headless with his genitals concealed, as if she castrates her anonymous lovers. I found her Fake Marriage humorous; the paired photograph appearing what might appear as a typical group wedding photograph but Calle reveals that this was staged after her Las Vegas wedding, yet providing the truest story of my life.
The Afterword was provided by Gunilla Knape with the text in English and who summarizes Calle’s oeuvre very nicely, “…her photographs rarely stand alone, but interact with text, in accordance with the post-structuralist idea that all languages are of equal value. She challenges us to reflect on the possibilities and limitations of photography”.
The book object, which is hardcover linen wrap, with an overlaid photographic image, is wonderfully printed and bound in Germany. The images and text are floating within traditional and ample white margins. The varnished interior photographic plates are a combination of color and black & white images. The vast majority of the photographs are paired with Calle’s accompanying text.