Female Photographer Imagines Her Life with Dozens of Different Partners in ‘Self Portraits with Men’



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.

Though obviously comparable to the work of Cindy Sherman, Pepe’s chameleon talents focus more on how relationships can utterly transform an individual than embodying specific female identities. Questions of origin, influence and choice all come into play, the “what-if” manifesting in a sometimes comical, sometimes surreal interpretation of different paths we all could have taken.












All images © Dita Pepe

via LensCulture

  • Josie

    I agree with you Melanie – the woman’s identity is a reflection of what she becomes. On the other hand it could also be a reflection of what she is that she chooses a mate that compliments her. It could go either way.

  • Gundar deGoot

    The fourth picture is real! This is her and her family. Can’t be faked! (unless it’s the last one, maybe)

  • melanie

    Yes, another reading (as you suggest), would be that she is playing out societal assumptions and possibly even stereotypes – our spouse matches our demographic – profession, income, culture.

  • melanie

    I agree.

  • melanie

    Take a look at the work of Trish Morrissey – she does this in her excellent series “Front”. It’s very sophisticated (not suggesting this series isn’t). In her case the absent woman is the thread, rather than the family members she’s pictured with.

  • melanie

    Oops! Just mentioned this above and then saw your comment. I agree, it’s a subtle and sophisticated body of work.

  • Wow. Not one with a black man. Speaks volumes.

  • I don’t think the point was for her to shine through. I don’t think the “husbands” shine through either. Nor the children. That’s not what she was trying to do. The project isn’t, “What would I look like beside a different man?” It was more, “What would I look like had I chosen a different path?”

  • Jeana Siblowski

    I agree. Something doesn’t run true about a lot of these scenes — mainly because of the clothing, but the photos in “Front” seem very natural. The top one isn’t quite right, for example. The dress, tights, boots and heavy sweater — even the hair — do not say “money” to me.

  • ThisGuyRightHere

    I don’t see that. I see a woman who’s life changes based on varying past choices.

  • The Fabulous Blog

    it said she made 100, she may very well have one with a black man and they didn’t include it in this article

  • Mike Ballard

    That’s a keen observation.

  • Mike Ballard

    That’s the way I see it.

  • Mike Ballard

    I’m not as sensitive to the language when the imagery is so rich.

  • Roxana Nunez

    I don’t know how you gather that. I have been married for over 26 years. Guess who picks what my husband wears to work? My 22 year old daughter. We all help each other make decisions from what we eat and wear to what kind of jobs we have. It is called a family for a reason. I don’t understand how you came to that conclusion. This is just her form of expression, she decided to portray families and how easy it was for her to look right at home in each. If she wanted to portray women standing solely in their power, she probably could have taken pictures as an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher and then one as a mother. There is nothing wrong with being a part of a family.

  • Booyah

    I’d love to know what Nikki S. Lee thinks about all this. I’m surprised she didn’t get a mention here.

  • the pied piper

    really cool.

  • John

    Wow. She lives in the Czech Republic. Been there? Speaks tomes.

  • Beth Grant

    I am a single woman, and I totally get what this is about. I think what she’d done here is brilliant. Based on the choices available to us, we can all have any number of lives and situations. She’s just looking at the different choices she could make and imagining what her life might, literally, look like.

  • Actually, if you click on the link to her blog, you’ll find that she has a few photos with black men, and she also has one with a woman. I suppose this article just chose not to include them.

  • hvrrel

    No black dudes?

  • Sumi Ha

    well, but i’ve seen this already 13 years ago in 2001 at the Migros Museum for contemporary art, from an german artist:

  • Lyta Alexander

    People of African descent apart from an occasional foreign student or a tourist in the capital, are rather rare to come by in Czech Republic. Biggest minorities of another race are Roma and Vietnamese or Chinese people.

  • Nicolas Manzini

    Shocking! I feel betrayed as if she doesn’t care who the fuck is her children’s father as long as he’s next to her. She’s like most girls and boys in reality. Nice art. Humanity sucks.(licks?)

  • Michele From Ohio

    Agree 100%. I love this. I feel stifled just looking at some of those scenarios, but some of the other ones look doable.

  • Michele From Ohio

    Ever hear of a wet nurse? Before bottles and sanitation if the mother’s milk dried up the baby still had to eat. And since most women were dragging around a baby or two at all times in the olden days, it wasn’t hard to find someone to nurse your kid…

  • black _developer

    and what does that have to do with my comment or modern times in which similac an enfamil exist?

  • Virginie Sermet

    Well, it’s interesting but another artist did something very similar in the 70’s. Hans Heijkelboom took pictures of himself with different women and their children as if he was the father of the family. His work was presented this summer in Arles :

  • Virginie Sermet

    Except someone already had the idea in the 70’s and did the same thing.

  • Virginie Sermet

    And another artist did the same in the 70’s… so totally not original.

  • Are you accusing her of stealing the idea? Concepts are done and re-done and re-done, either purposefully or through one’s own original development process. Am I not allowed to shoot a “nude woman in repose” now because it’s been painted and photographed thousands of times?

    If Dita knowingly & purposefully ripped off someone, then shame on her, otherwise, just enjoy & celebrate an amazing photography project that was impeccably done instead of being “yet another negative internet critic”. We have enough of them online these days.

  • Garry Clarkson

    Its Nikki S Lee’s project recreated. Not exactly original but still useful identity formation exercise.

  • Gina Loyd

    Any mom, who’s hair looks like that….isn’t lazy. That’s a mom that puts everyone first….on purpose, and wouldn’t have it any other way. I think this is great. Love the different cultures she manages to fit into.

  • I think our partners do change us through the years and it’s not just women. We have all these personal history of the way women are treated and how women are always at the mercy of men and their lives including their tastes, but no one really speaks about how some women in the world are the fierce, dominating partners they sometimes are. Some times even abusive and scary. We tend to forget this or maybe those men aren’t really vocal about that and maybe they keep those facts to themselves. I had a very weird relationship like that in the past briefly, but thankfully I moved on. Anyways I don’t really see that too much in this photo series. Though we are all judges here and can be judgmental right? We have that right and we have a forum to speak about it. I think this series is great because it discusses these ideas, but just remember they are just ideas and most of it comes from us viewing our own interpretations which makes this series strong. Giving your opinion is great, but forcing it as absolute truth isn’t productive or open-minded. I think people change together. Nothing really happens equally in anything it’s a mixture. Also outside forces like the environment’s economy and even relatives can change the way we dress and eventually look and feel about our selves.

  • BigBroKnows

    Those who control the past control the future. Those who control the present control the past.

  • Gretchen Smith

    and yet all of the photos have children…

  • Gretchen Smith

    I definitely agree and what is with all the kids…

  • Jude I?ca?iot

    Humans are props in all photos.

  • Jude I?ca?iot

    Because formula is still not as good as nursing, even from another “source”.

  • Jude I?ca?iot

    She lives in and does her work in the Czech Republic, first off. And secondly, she has a few on her website.

  • Jude I?ca?iot

    I checked in to it, and less than 3% of the population is non-white there. Of that percentage, Vietnamese, Mongolians, Chinese, and Koreans make up most of that population.

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