Alternate reality photos of her life as a married woman
August 29, 2014 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Staging lives: "Who do you want to be? Or, more accurately, who could you have been? Czech photographer Dita Pepe takes these musings quite literally, re-imaging her life in a hundred different scenarios in her series Self Portraits with Men. Pepe’s photographs are disarming in their nonchalant subtly, the artist possessing an uncanny ability to become a seamless member of each family."

"Initially posing with men she knew, Pepe eventually began approaching strangers as potential partners, sometimes including her own daughter in the mix. The portraits manage to transcend age, class and culture. Despite the often immediately recognizable archetypes present, Pepe inhabits each one fully. As single photographs, you cannot spot the stranger."
posted by Salamandrous (27 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
Come for the concept, stay for the giant skull bat car.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2014 [14 favorites]

Is the little girl in the pink glasses her real daughter? because she shows up in several photos
posted by Bwithh at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2014

n/m the article says its her daughter
posted by Bwithh at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2014

I LOVE this series. Obviously something that's been hiding in the back of my mind all these years. Makes me want to do something similar. I'm not a photographer -- maybe a series of grocery lists?
posted by kestralwing at 5:01 PM on August 29, 2014 [8 favorites]

Though it has a much different tone, fans of this may also like Nacho Rojo's similar series Couples.
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:19 PM on August 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

Here I'll quote Houellebecq (Platform), who quotes himself Comte: "In his fiftieth sociology lesson, Auguste Comte tackles that"strange metaphysical aberration" that conceives of the family as the template for society. "Founded chiefly upon attachment and gratitude, the domestic union satisfies, by its mere existence, all our sympathetic instincts quite apart from all idea of active and continuous cooperation toward any end unless it be that of its own institution. When, unhappily, the coordination of employments remains the only principle of connection, the domestic union degenerates into mere associations, and in most cases will soon dissolve altogether."
posted by Meatafoecure at 5:35 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I can't stop looking at these images. The stories each picture tells just captivates me.
posted by Marinara at 5:44 PM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

If I had seen any of these individually, I'd have formed a whole series of assumptions about her, based on her dress, her surroundings and her family. And faced with the realization that she's the same person in each one... I kinda have to think about that a bit.
posted by klanawa at 6:08 PM on August 29, 2014 [16 favorites]

Wonderful stuff! And the little girl in the pink glasses blends in just as well, even though she's actually more distinctive in the photos than her mother.
posted by xingcat at 6:12 PM on August 29, 2014

I enjoyed this more than I expected to based on the text intro...imagining the "what if" of different lives with different feels like an artistic question that's easy for me to relate to.
posted by drlith at 6:37 PM on August 29, 2014

Ugh, I love these so much. Her genuine smile in each is what sells it. Czech peeps, represent!
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:45 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Like this art, I think that sometimes in life a woman chooses a partner for the life she wants to lead even though that usually turns out to be a crapshoot. This is a very interesting and evocative series.
posted by Anitanola at 9:25 PM on August 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm guessing that the baby in #4 is going to end up disappointed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:41 PM on August 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this post.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:51 PM on August 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Photo posts have my sincere approval, always. I got pulled into that site with the other photo sets also, although this one is great.

Pink glasses little girl could have her own series of families. It'd be a spin-off, like "Mork and Mindy" spun-off from "Happy Days."
posted by obsolutely at 10:47 PM on August 29, 2014

It gave me the creeps. Not in the sense that she's actually doing anything wrong, but in the sense that I felt like I was watching some master criminal deceiving a lot of families, or a mentally ill person who keeps destroying her life and starting over with another husband and more babies in yet another country. It made think of Zelig.

(I bet this series rings a bell for Orphan Black fans too.)

It seemed like she kind of made herself more less (conventionally) attractive to match her family. Like in the Batdude family photo, she kind of slouches and gives herself a double chin, but in some of the others she looks like a model.

I'm kind of surprised nobody has once tossed out the word "brownface." I wasn't offended, but that second picture sure stood out to me and seemed like the kind of thing that would upset some folks. (I'm not actually sure what ethnicity that family is, but it looks to me like she did darken her skin in addition to her hair.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:37 PM on August 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

These are great! They remind me of this woman, who, tired of the pressure from friends and family to "be married by now", took staged photos of herself with a mannequin family in order to reflect back the ridiculousness of that pressure to be perfect. Her photos are amazing - they capture pathos and striving in equal measure.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:24 AM on August 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is amazing. A large part of my daydreaming time is "what if..." and she's captured that so well. There's something so specific about this that I can't articulate -- something about motherhood, and being a wife, that she's playing with here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:54 AM on August 30, 2014

Constructions of Happiness (different project, same idea)
posted by yoHighness at 9:32 AM on August 30, 2014

Love it. It is so recognizably Czech. I would have known even if I hadn't been told. Great work!
posted by littlewater at 12:34 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's the most interesting bit to me, how these are clearly chock full of cultural signifiers to Czechs which are totally mysterious to me (what's that dude with the long hair & blond kids wearing in that one picture? He looks like an extra from Pirates of Penzance. Fascinating).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:13 PM on August 30, 2014

Ursula, the second picture shows a Roma family, a much-oppressed minority in Central and Eastern Europe. Realistically, if the artist wanted to portray herself as a Roma woman (and all the class/ethnic baggage that goes along with that), she would have to alter her appearance for the portrait. I don't think it was intended mockingly.

To address other commenters, there are indeed a lot of cultural signifiers in this series and I confess I can't always read them (even being half Czech!), but one reliable marker is the degree to which the kids are dressed up and of course the general bourgeois "flavor" of the family portrait - is there a house, garden, etc. I was most intrigued by the quasi-peasant family with the four kids and the man in the traditional linen shirt. They may be religious/devout (four kids is an unusually high number for a Czech family in this day and age) with a pan-Slavic flavor - not a very common trope, but one does see it occasionally.
posted by Atrahasis at 5:06 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I liked the idea, and the pictures as well, but found myself uncomfortably thinking of the real women who are pushed off-screen in order for her to take their places.
posted by not that girl at 5:34 PM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

it looks to me like she did darken her skin in addition to her hair

Ursula Hitler, her skin looks slightly darker in that picture to me as well, but she could just have a tan. I've heard a number of reasons why one should wear sunscreen, but avoiding appearing to be in blackface is not one I've heard.
posted by yohko at 1:38 AM on August 31, 2014

No comment about Cindy Sherman? The artist is obviously reworking that idea - it is very hypnotic.

Might as well mention the 2008 documentary, Guest of Cindy Sherman - an excellent documentary and peek into the art world. Little bit of a downer. (Special surprise guest star - Steve Martin! Does not come off well!)

posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:56 PM on September 2, 2014

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