Sophie Calle began following strangers because she didn’t know what to do with herself; she had no friends. “It was a way to force myself to get out of the house without having to decide what I was doing.”
January 1980 in Paris, she followed a man for the day and then lost him in the crowd. She later attended an art exhibition to find him there, a coincidence which led her to believe it was fate. She overheard him talking to a friend about a holiday to Venice and decided to go to track him down.
She began to follow him every day, photographing him, writing down his every move together with her thoughts and feelings in a journal. If he stopped to take a photo, she would stand in the exact same spot and try to capture the image he had taken. Her work is more similar to a detective’s than a lover, as she highlights the vulnerability of the stranger while trying to examine his identity.
This project lead her into another: she requested her mother to hire a private investigator to follow her. She took him on a journey through the streets of Paris to her favourite places. She kept a journal of the things she was up to, to compare with the detectives notes for amusement.
She was intrigued with the idea of switching roles and her privacy being invaded, like the many that she had once followed, and the contrast of the scenarios the detective pieced together from following her, to the actual truth.