One of the greatest exponents of presenting images and text is the French artist, Sophie Calle. Calle carefully controls both forms to evoke a strong emotional response in her audience, similar to that in the theatre.

Calle says:

“I like being in control and I like losing control” (Calle and Macel 2003).

In encouraging this strong audience response, however, it is not Calle’s intention to let the viewer in entirely, instead she merges elements of fact and fiction into her work, leaving her audience without a comprehensive understanding of what they have seen and read.

Calle uses words and images in different ways and the suggestion of a multiplicity of meaning is an explicit element in her work and the audience’s interpretation. Her work plays upon society’s search for total meaning and understanding of the world, which is not possible. This perspective is one portrayed by Baudrillard who states that:

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” (Baudrillard 1994).

In Baudrillard Reframed, Toffoletti continues:

“We are not in danger of lacing meaning: quite the contrary, we are gorged with meaning and it is killing us.” (Toffoletti 2010)

The work of Sophie Calle denounces Roland Barthes seminal essay Death of the Author (1997) and places the author firmly in control through her methodology. In Suite Venitienne (1979) Calle followed a man, ultimately to Venice, photographing and documenting her attempts to follow her subject, with her images, providing a sense of the thriller-esque nature of her work. Calle also records her thoughts, feelings and emotions towards a man she has never met. This approach feels like a sense of escapism for Calle, entering another’s life rather than living her own.

Suite Venetienne – Sophie Calle

Suite Venetienne – Sophie Calle

A similar thriller-esque project is Unfinished (2003). This work is interesting because it does not use Calle’s images, she was not in control of the brief nor did she add words. She was commissioned by an American bank to create a body of work based upon the images from surveillance cameras, recording people using cash machines. Through her own admission she struggled with the narrative for the project which in turn, to me, emphasises her need to present images and words in her work and the relationship of the two in her methodology. In this work, the narrative was derived from her choice of images and the story they told.

Unfinished – Sophie Calle

Unfinished – Sophie Calle

In Take Care of Yourself (2007) Calle takes an autobiographical story of the end of a relationship and an e-mail she received, suggesting she take care of herself. She asked a series of professional women to interpret the letter according to their profession – the interpretations varied from legal and psychological to more creative. Again, the boundaries between truth and fiction are blurred in true Calle style. In this piece of work the text take second place to her images.

Take Care of Yourself – Sophie Calle

Take Care of Yourself – Sophie Calle

For me, I am interested in the way Calle uses words and images in different ways and also the thriller-esque nature of some of her work. Her work invariably evokes a strong response and universal appeal, is enigmatic and has a strong sense of chance in its methodology.

Having researched the work of Sophie Calle it leaves me to think about why and how I would like to combine images and words in my work. At this stage I think my motivations are as follows:

  1. Taking back control as the author! Much of what you see in images is about the photographer
  2. Demonstrating how we can explore our thoughts, feelings and emotions through an observation of reeds on a Loch in north west Scotland.
  3. Being mindful through nature
  4. Recording thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as the more technical aspects of a shoot through the process of recording in a Journal and generating Word Clouds
  5. Alluding to a back story of a struggle to come to terms with ghosts, bad memories and daemons
  6. Using my fascination with The Road to Elgol to unlock some of my thoughts – the phenomenology of the road
  7.  Sharing my approach and methodology with others as a means that they might rid themselves of similar things through engaging with nature.


Barr, J, What are the main elements of Sophie Calle’s use of Image and Text?, in New Minds Eye

Baudrillard, J (1994), Simulacra and Simulation, University of Michigan Press

Tofoletti, K (2010), Baudrillard Reframed, I B Tauris, London

Alison Price

Alison Price

My name is Alison Price and for the past ten years I have travelled the world photographing wildlife, including Alaska, Antarctica, Borneo, Botswana, the Canadian Arctic, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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