I spent the afternoon pouring over the course reading material but find it very hard to keep focused as every artist I come across I want to investigate further. I decided purely to explore the ideas of those who related to the course or perhaps a faint link showing a contemporary or alternative view. I came across the photographer Sophie Calle who met a stranger twice in one day. The second time she bumped into the man she was so intrigued perhaps feeling this was fate. She found he was going to Venice. Any other person would presumably wished him well and hoped to see him around one day…Calle followed him there and proceeded to stalk him without his knowing.
My initial thinking was “How could she do that! How awful, how intrusive.” Yet then my second instinct (and I’m not proud to admit it) was a deep seated curisosity as to what the photos looked like, what happened, did he find out? She searched for days where he was staying, contacting countless of hotels and even visiting the police. She found his hotel and somehow convinced someone to let her stay in the room opposite to photograph him at his window. Is she an artist in search of a story, a person in search of a purpose, or an unstable person showing disturbing behavior. I am prone to agree on the latter as she kept an intense diary noting every movement of both herself and her subject (victim) recreating his photos and even having her friends arrange to ‘bump’ into him. It is almost as though she isn’t feeling boundaries of human conduct. She is so immersed in this fantasty she has concocted that she has lost touch with reality.
It is such an intrusion of a persons privacy, it goes beyond street photography, beyond curiosity, it is deeply centered in the psychotic stalker area. And I would think illegal. I do not condone it but the curiosity of human nature is so intense so overwhelming that the natural instinct is to look. Perhaps that curiosity is very deeply seated in artists or those who thrive on their imagination. I discussed it with my father who said he wasn’t even interested to look at the photos, wouldn’t give the credit or time to even glance.
Her obsession started to resemble a drug addiction, she followed him everywhere, searching, building up a story around it…the more she
follows (stalks) him the more she feels a deep connnection, she loves him, yet of course she can’t love him as she doesn’t even know him. And admitting you stalked someone is not the best way to start a relationship. Though the focus is on the man (mostly his back figure as he walks from the camera) and the character you should feel is his, it is really the artist herself who becomes the character to the viewers. In her miltiary like writings you feel her madness, the more she follows the more intense and over the edge she is pushed until a day when she doesn’t see him is a day twisted in torment. She dedicated herself to him, it’s a feeling of desperation but more than that it’s disturbing.
Many would argue she is a true artist, she is following her heart and her dream and perhaps my views would be seen unfavourably. The book which she published with these photos exposes human nature but it is frankly deeply unsettling and such an intrusion. Indeed she was eventually caught as he said, “You shouldn’t have got too close, I recognised your eyes.” How must he have felt to have been stalked across a continent, through streets. How did it impact his life? There is no doubt in my mind that omething like that would have changed a person and left more than a hint of paranoia.
As I’d spent time studying her monograph I felt I should bear reference to it within the course. I headed to the seafront with the idea of photographing people, not in an intrusive stalker way, merely as you would in street photography, I had the idea of taking photos then threading a narrative between the photos of unconnected people.
Yet when it came to it, I couldn’t take a single photo. Here were people laughing, chatting, flying kites and eating ice creams. I couldn’t and wouldn’t intrude on their lives without their permission. The unsettling feeling of Calle’s photography had hung over me like a sticky black net, I had the feeling I was being stalked, that I was stalking even though neither was true (well the latter definitely, see I’m still paranoid) I put my camera down and instead picked up my pen. I was absentmindedly drawing and reading ‘PsychoGeography’ while snippets of conversation of passers bay wafted into the car.
“Psychogeography is the point at which Psychology and Geography collide, a means of exploring the behavioral impact of an urban place.” Psychogeography – Merlin Coverley.
“Oh I couldn’t believe it when…”
I looked up from my book as the people passed by out of ear shot. What couldn’t they believe? Just those two words had me hooked. An idea (a non-stalkerish idea) began forming in my mind. For the next hour I noted down the snippets of conversation I heard, I didn’t hear the beginning of many and the ending always remained defiantly absent as they went out of ear shot. I was like trying to listen underwater, focusing on specific words my imagination struggling to fill in the gaps.
I gathered these words together, took a photo of the view from the car and overlayed the incomplete sentences over the image, thus creating the character or psychogeography of the area through the very words of those who inhabit them. Some are humorous, some nonchalant, some are mere comments, arguments, but all give an insight into the person and the area in which they inhabit.
I sought to find a name for my project, Ellipsis.. (as every sentence trailed away) Snatches (I was still feeling slightly paranoid and this seemed to promote negative connotations) Whispers was also an idea.
In the end, I decided to call my project ‘Snippets‘ as that was the word I used to describe it as I wrote this post. I’m aware I am racking up too many personal projects but this is something I feel quite passionate about and would like to explore further. You can see the words where they were spoken filling in the gaps for the absence of people. You don’t need to see the people in the photo because you get a glimpse of their character just by the words streaming past and I feel it shows the psychogeography of the area. I’d like to go to several areas and document it. Perhaps it could even be a back up for Assignment Six, Transitions. To show how a place changes throughout the months, how does the conversation alter with the landscape. Are people happier in the Summer and more down in Winter, what age group will be there more and can you tell that from the writing. The physical transition will also be possible to see. Though I intend to stick with my transitions of the Playmobil house in the garden and how nature is rapidly taking it over I will endeavour to include Snippets in my assignments somewhere.
Any thoughts on this would be very much appreciated.