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Art Watch : Dita Pepe

Dita Pepe is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

We here at Art From us love Dita’s series of semiautobiographical photojournalism posing as art. What is that you ask? For Dita, this series is a way to insert herself and sometimes her daughter into the lives of other families. We can call it ‘performance’ and ‘pretence’ that is mimicking the “real”. Or we can identify it as ‘altering’ the real. The self-portraits Pepe presents are a new reality for the viewer. The viewer is confronted only with the image and their own reaction to it. By inviting us to participate in her narrative of presumed and created social identities, Dita makes us question ourselves with every click!

Dita Pepe has explored the idea of identity and environment in two photographic series. Titled Self-Portraits with Men and Self-Portraits with Women, since 1999. For this unusual Czech photographer, she seeks to completely assimilate into the lives of other people.

Why Dita Pepe?

Usually, upon encountering somebody or something for the first time, the brain goes into overdrive for a few seconds. This is to quickly form a first impression. Rapid assumptions are made based on particulars of the person or event. Age, gender, race, culture, physical appearance, the surrounding environment, and especially in relation to others present, whether we like it or not. Thus all things help form who we are, real or perceived.

From the inception, Pepe first posed with people she was familiar with (her best friend in college). But since then, she has worked with new people from all walks of life. Especially those with different backgrounds and family structures. She makes it more authentic by incorporating her own daughters into the portraits sometimes. Each image is shot at location where a family or person lives, or engages with in daily life. Pepe prepares a great length to create the sense of belonging in each portrait. A chameleonlike quality that some compare to the works of Cindy Sherman.  But differing from Sherman’s studio shots, her images appear more like hasty snapshots (deliberate). Bringing a strange level of believability, spontaneity and authenticity to each portrait.

In her life Dita had to deal with inner conflicts and photography became a sort of therapy. She found herself effectively, through stepping into other people’s shoes and environments. Dressing in other clothes, posing with another woman’s husband, pretending to be a mother. She uncovers a truth that at the baseline – everyone is similar. And though there are different ways one can live a life, the similarities exist and this fascinates her till date. She isn’t taking self – portraits anymore.

The Artist Speaks

“It is about getting to feel what someone else’s way of life might be like, it’s very interesting. And I do not mean in a visual sense. It is very surprising to realize in how many different ways we can live and approach our lives. It enriches me tremendously and gives me a rewarding feeling.” Says the artist.

Dita Pepe born in 1973, Ostrava, graduated from a grammar school in Frydlant nad Ostravici in 1992. She and left for Germany after that, where she stayed for five years. She married Francesco Pepe, a student of psychology. 

Dita attended several courses of photography at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, Germany. In 1996 she started to study at the Silestian University of Opava, Institute of Creative Photography (ITF). In 1997 she moved to Prague and worked as a photographer.

For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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