|9a Scheibe, C-Print, 2011 © Sara-Lena Maierhofer|
"Illusions commend themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead"
I am obsessed with crooks. One of my favourite websites is the Top Ten Famous Con Men. And the film, Catch Me if You Can. Or the book and film on Jean-Claude Romand, L'adversaire. Familiar? Well, the crook or con man has been an inspiration for many artists since human kind exists. Actually, it is an art in itself to be a crook. It can go different ways:
By unfortunate circumstances, a person finds himself in a situation that forces him to lie. From one small lie to another the deception becomes bigger and bigger and, before he knows it, he is trapped in its own complicated logic. This, in the end, can lead to murder and suicide as the story of Jean-Claude Romand teaches us.
Or, someone starts a new life under a new persona to escape a difficult past. Or to earn a lot of money. Or to become a superstar. Or one reinvents himself every other year and makes it his lifestyle. What, why and how you will never know or understand. Because unmasking the fraud does not happen often. They are like chameleons adapting themselves to their environment.
The young German photographer Sara-Lena Maierhofer found out in a German newspaper that a German man had been caught in the United States after living for 30 years under different personas. She tried to contact him to understand his story, but when he didn't reply, she decided to reinvent the story herself. She tried to retrace his past as much as she could, and decided to fill in the rest herself.
Dear Clark, the project that developed as a result, is in a way a con-photo story. Based on a true con-man, Maierhofer layers the story with so many different elements, true and false, that it leaves the visitor with more questions than answers. And that is exactly what the con man was trying to do in the first place. At the same time, it is a good reflection on photography itself, with its struggle for representation.