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, she believed this was fate. She overheard him talking to a friend about a holiday to Venice and decided to go to track him down. She phoned hundreds of hotels and finally found the man.
She began to follow him every day, photographing him, writing down his every move with her thoughts and feelings and kept them in a journal. If he stopped to take a photo, she would go to take exact spot to try and capture the same image he had taken. She became obsessed with this man, she would often think and dream about him. When he would leave a hotel, she would book out the exact same room, just so she could sleep in the same bed he was in. Her work is more similar to a detective’s than a lover, she highlights the vulnerability of the stranger as she tries to examine his identity.
After following a subject something within her just clicks, and she decides she must leave them behind, forget about them, and move on.
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 her 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.