Research Point: Sophie Calle and Sophy Rickett

We are asked to look up Sophie Calle’s Take Care of Yourself and Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field online and investigate the rationale behind the bodies of work and see if we can find any critical responses to them. We are also asked to respond to two statements:

  • How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?
  • Another way to incorporate text into an image-based project is to include interviews or audio

Stephen Bull (p. 12) describes postmodernism as ‘call(ing) into question the universality and progressiveness of modernist ideas. Offering … a more fragmented worldview, it often focuses on social issues rather than aesthetic ones.’ He goes on to say (p.13) that ‘the focus of postmodernist criticism, is outside the photograph: what is in the image itself is ignored and instead the cultural context in which the image is put to use comes to be considered central.’

I really struggled to find Calle’s Take Care of Yourself online. The Vancouver City library also had no books on Calle and I was not prepared to go out and purchase another book, so my research point on Calle’s project will mainly be my understanding from a few interviews that I have read on this work.

Calle received an email from her boyfriend breaking off their relationship. In closing the email he made the statement ‘take care of yourself’ and this gave birth to Calle’s body of work. After a couple of days she showed the email to her friend and asked how she should reply. Her friend gave her some ideas and from this Calle got the idea to send this cowardly ex-boyfriend’s breakup email to 107 women in a variety of professions, asking their reactions and photographing and filming their responses. Her body of work consists of film as well as photography. A small sample can be see Paula Cooper’s Gallery website. A short video of the work is available on The European Graduate School’s website.

Sophy Rickett’s project, Objects in the Field is just as interesting. In this project she uses the terminology or lexicon of scientists to describe stars (objects) in the sky (field).  Her project was made in response to an encounter with Dr Roderick Willstrop, a retired fellow of the Institute of Astronomy and inventor of The Three Mirror telescope. This telescope produces black and white negatives of the night sky using three mirrors instead of two to widen the optical path of light entering the lens and capture more detail. The telescope was used for twelve years and produced about 125 negatives before being converted to a digital telescope. Rickett made prints from the negatives.

How do these two pieces of work reflect postmodern approaches to narrative?

Calle’s project definitely reflects a postmodern approach to narrative. She has used 107 women’s interpretations and their voices and expressions and photographed their written responses to exaggerate this approach. While some of the women might have had similar reactions, their responses in line with their vocations and backgrounds would have had subtle, or not so subtle nuances of different interpretations to this email.

Rickett’s project reflects a dual narrative – that of the photographer and that of the scientist. Although both collaborated on the project, their points of view were totally different.

In the show at Kettle’s Yard, I titled every work, and Dr Willstrop provided captions – so again, there is a sense of these two voices speaking over each other, addressing the same theme, but slightly in opposition.


Part of Rickett’s narrative relates to a time when as a child she was having her eyes tested and her memories of that occasion, which in turn relates back to the optics of the telescope. As well she relates a seemingly unrelated incident of two small boys waving that she fleetingly observed while traveling on a train. Dr Willstrop’s narrative, on the other hand, is very scientific. The full text of Rickett’s narrative can be read on The Photographer’s Gallery website.

Another way to incorporate text into an image-based project is to include interviews or audio

I think including interviews or audio into an image-based project can be very powerful.  A beautiful example of this, I think, is Pedro Meyer’s work I Photograph to Remember, which I reviewed two weeks ago. I think one has to be very selective and careful though so as not to have the audio dominate the images. The interview or audio should serve as a complementary role to the images.

Reference List

Boothroyd, Sharon (2013). Sophy Rickett [online]. Photoparley. Available from: [Accessed 23 August, 2015]

Bull, Stephen (2009). Photography. London: Routledge


Chrisafis, Angelique (2007). He loves me not [online]. The Guardian. Available from: . [Accessed 22 August, 2015]

Johnston, Stephen (2014). Sophy Rickett: Objects in the Field [online]. Inside MHS Oxford. Available from: . [Accessed 23 August, 2015]

Paula Cooper Gallery (2009). Sophie Calle Take Care of Yourself. [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 22 August, 2015]

Sophie Calle. Take Care of Youself. [online]. The European Graduate School [online] Available from: . [Accessed 22 August, 2015]

Sophy Rickett. Objects in the Field (2014) [online]. The Photographer’s Gallery. Available from: . [Accessed 23 August, 2015]


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