Sophie Calle is a French photographer whose work emerged in the late seventies and eighties. Her work often depicts human vulnerability and examines both identity and intimacy. She is a photographer and installation artist. She is known to follow strangers and examine their private lives. The more and more I look at her work, I realize that her photographs become social investigations. The “Blind” Series is a favorite of mine, it was made in 1986. For this series of photographs, Calle examines the life of blind people. She spent a year with people who were born blind, asked them what their image of beauty was, and then translated the descriptions into a visual form. Each work in the series has three components: a black and white portrait of the blind person, a quoted text panel of the person, and a colored photograph in which Calle tries to represent what beauty is through the blind person’s eyes.
I have posted a photo of “The Blind 19” that is a part of this series. In this particular part of the project, Calle took a black and white portrait of this blind woman who gives a direct stare to the viewer. To the right of the portrait, Calle has a framed quote of what this woman’s notion of beauty is. It reads, “The man I live with is the most beautiful thing I know. Even though he can be a few inches taller, I never came across absolute perfection. I prefer well built men. It’s a question of size and shape. Facial features don’t mean much to me. What pleases me aesthetically is a man’s body, slim and muscular.” Calle then interprets the woman’s idea of beauty by producing a color photograph of a man lying on a bed with his back towards the camera with contrasting elements of light and dark falling on his bare body. I find this series engaging because it allows the viewer to gain insight on what it’s like to be blind and also questions the notion of beauty.