The Multiple Personalities of Sophie Green
Thirteen women united by name alone
Sophie Green is a 30 year-old publicist living in Essex. Sophie Green is a 20 year-old student living in Norfolk. Sophie Green is a 21-year-old photographer living in London who set out across England to meet and photograph people sharing her name.
So far the experimental photo project I Am Sophie Green has failed to yield any strange, unifying parallels beyond what’s written on each subject’s birth certificate. They are researchers, nurses and artists, living different lives in different places. What everyone photographed does have in common is that they are younger and British, an accident of demographics. Pensioners and great-grandmothers tend not to use Facebook, Twitter and other typical research tools of today, but another inherently limiting factor is how names reflect the families who choose them.
“When starting this project, I set out to capture a broad range of people; different race, religion, class, and age,” says Green. “However name choice can be influenced by culture, fashion and race so this was out of my control.”
“I am intrigued by the randomness of a name and whether there are other levels of connection. Despite our social, ideological and age differences we all have an inherent connection through sharing the same name. I’m curious about the lives and existence of the other Sophie Greens.”
A few people agreed to participate in the growing portrait series right off the bat, a few refused outright. Just having the same name as the stranger phoning or emailing isn’t enough to convince most people to pose to have their picture taken, but a dozen Sophies eventually warmed up to the idea.
Once a session has been agreed upon, Green travels to wherever they live, scouting town for locations the day before the shoot. Backgrounds are selected for aesthetic reasons unrelated to a particular Sophie, a distance between subject and environment Green says gives her series a random, “as found” feel.
No subject has been a professional model or actress, but after spending time getting to know one another the idea behind the picture begins to crystalize.
“I found this whole process interesting and unpredictable because for a few hours I was asking a complete stranger to step out of their normal everyday life and engage with my camera and me in a very intimate way to create an emotional and thought-provoking portrait.”
“I felt very privileged that the people I met opened up to me and it made me appreciate the respect and trust needed between a photographer and their subject in order to work together.”
It’s not just the photographer who’s enjoyed the collaboration. Two or three women modeled several times for their portrait, and Green tries to keep in touch with everyone represented in the series. The project continues to grow with each new Sophie located, and she hopes to begin hunting beyond the British Isles.
“My photography is a spontaneous, intuitive reaction to the ordinary, situating unconventional beauty in its natural, everyday environment. I just want to show what it is to be human, my images are all about truth and honesty; in the main I have no other agenda than a desire to take them.”
In the meanwhile, Green’s life is a balance between work and personal projects. She had worked as an assistant for the photographer Tom Craig but recently took the plunge to focus on photography full time. The compromise of picking up commercial work, where her creative freedom is more limited, has been learning to devise visual solutions for clients.
Green is currently working with Tomorrow’s People, an organization helping the disenfranchised and disadvantaged find employment or ways to go back to school. As with I Am Sophie Green she’s traversing the land to meet people united by chance. The resulting photographs will be used for fundraising events.
“I am traveling around the country taking portraits of these individuals and documenting their personal, unique stories,” says Green. “This photographic series will be a positive reflection on just some of the individuals who have successfully transformed their lives.”
Green has also been shortlisted for the Ideastap Photographic Award which would provide funding as well as mentoring and an internship with Magnum Photos. Green’s hopes of seeing her photographs published in print and earning the opportunity to work overseas may not be long off. Sophies of the world, take note.