I’ve never experienced such a strong feeling emotions to a book as I did with Sophie Calle’s “Rachel, Monique”. This is an unbelievably beautiful tribute to her mother’s life, and I promise you that if you don’t shed a tear you will definitely feel a huge lump in your throat.
Calle is known for her controversy within photography and instillation art. Some of her most well-known projects include “Address book”, in which she finds a contact book in the street and talks to the people in the address book, in which they describe the man so Calle can predict who the owner is, and also “The Shadow”, where she gets her mother to hire a private detective and Calle describes how it feels to have this break down of privacy. Her work feeds on privacy and how we behave by ourselves and publicly.
However, this book is completely different. Yes it does break down a privacy wall, but in a completely different way. It’s homage to her mother, and Calle wants us to question how we remember someone, and how we cope after loss. Looking through this almost family album, we see pictures from vacations, zoo trips and luxurious events. We are also given dates and comments about the day, as well as inserts from her mothers diary, making it completely personal.
The thing that strikes me the most is that it is written in French, and for someone who only reluctantly studied French in secondary school, I don’t understand a word. And I love that. I love trying to pick out words and understand what’s happening in the image, almost creating my own narrative to the piece. It also means that the images become a hell of a lot more important because I depend on them, as they are the only things shown in a language that I understand.
But then you get to her mothers death and it hits you hard. You see this adventurous woman who is lusted after by men due to her beauty, suddenly fade away into a weak, vulnerable old woman. It reminds us that death is all around us and one day it will be us, especially due to the ending being “DAUGHTER”. The final part to the book is Calle going to the artic to place her mothers most precious objects in the snow, freezing them in time.
This is a truly beautiful book, visually and conceptually. The embossed type, the gold embroidery of words and most importantly the life and death of a woman.