Rule of Three


Stranger No. 1

by Shizuka Yokomizo

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We stand outside a man’s home, as he looks straight at us through the window. He seems unperturbed: he holds a phone to his ear, mid-conversation, and wears shorts and a tracksuit top. As with all subjects of Shizuka Yokomizo’s Dear Stranger series, this person has agreed to stand in plain view for a ten-minute period, to be photographed by the artist at a scheduled time. Although no personal relationship exists between them, the pair are bonded by a note received and instructions followed. Stranger No. 1 is a result of this fleeting communication, granting us an intimate glance into the existence of the willing, anonymous subject.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

American Beauty

directed by Sam Mendes
Feature film

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Lester Burnham, experiencing a mid-life crisis, develops an obsession with his daughter’s best friend. From the moment he first sees her, we gain access to his innermost thoughts and fantasies. As she cheerleads onstage at a school show, everything around her fades away and we watch her through his eyes. She dances slowly, seductively, and seemingly solely for him. It is not only his own desires that are salacious, but also our immersion within his private thoughts. As Lester lusts after a teen, his own daughter finds love too, with a fellow student whose right hand never loosens its grip on his camcorder.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

Blue Velvet

directed by David Lynch
Feature film

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Blue Velvet’s action unfolds in the sleepy suburbs of Lumberton, a small, unremarkable town in North Carolina. But beyond the manicured lawns and cosy diners, something more sinister lurks, symbolised by a severed ear found lying in the grass. After coming across the festering body part, Jeffrey Beaumont feels compelled to investigate. In one scene, he enters a woman’s apartment to further his mission, hiding in a closet to escape being caught by her lover. Watching through the slats in a wardrobe door, he witnesses the unsettling nature of the antagonist’s wishes. Like us, Jeffrey remains stationary, all-seeing but powerless to intervene.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

Today's connection

All works described include prominent acts of voyeurism.

More to discover

Stranger No. 1: You can read more about the Dear Stranger series on the Tate website.

American Beauty: You can watch the trailer here, and see the scene described above here. Michael Tucker has analysed the film's script in a video essay for Lessons from the Screenplay, and Simon Fanshawe has interviewed the director for The Guardian.

Blue Velvet: You can watch the re-release trailer here, and see the scene described above here. Dennis Lim has written about responses to Blue Velvet, for Salon; Stephen Puddicombe has written on the film's music, for Little White Lies; and Michael Zunenshine has written on the meaning of various characters' beer preferences, for Sight & Sound.

Question of the day

Which artworks about voyeurism would you recommend?
Let us know on Facebook, Patreon, or Twitter.

Peeping Tom, a film by Michael Powell. The film's central theme is the voyeurism of its protagonist (and, by extension, the audience). (→)

– John Wadsworth, Silent Frame's Editor-in-Chief (via Patreon →)

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