For 15 years, Czech photographer Dita Pepe has taken photos of herself posing as other women with men who are not actually her partners and with families that are not hers. The series “Self Portraits With Men” reveals Pepe with dozens of different men and families, blending in seamlessly with people who are different from her in terms of their background, culture, and socio-economic position. The series explores identity and culture by asking the question, as Pepe told CNN, “What would it be like if I had been born somewhere else, in a different way, to other parents?”
Pepe explains to CNN that the project began in 1999, when she was 19 and “unsure of what to with [her]self.” She suggests that she began disguising herself as different women with different families because, she explains, “I was still looking for female ideals to inspire me.” She describes the detailed process of setting up her fake family portraits:
To reach certain authenticity, I would dress into their clothes, use their personal belongings, clothes from their wardrobe or of their family. I would discuss with them their hair style, face expression, their typical pose or gesture.
She describes the photo shoots as transformative experiences, saying, “I somehow completely forget about myself…By using someone else’s clothes, I think I am dressing into someone else’s skin and change my body odor.”
Taken together, the series shows Pepe in a startling variety of contexts, looking completely at home with her different “husbands” and variety of children (some of the children in the photos are actually her own daughters). The photos ask us to think about how our identities come to be so different from each other, and how they are shaped by both the choices we make and the elements of our lives that we cannot control.
Images Courtesy of Dita Pepe (15)