After having her wallet stolen at a gallery, photographer Jessamyn Lovell decided that instead of simply replacing her credit cards, she would track the thief down and document her moves for a new exhibit.
Back in 2011, Lovell’s wallet was stolen at SF Camerawork, and not long after realizing it was gone, she noticed charges starting to pour in. Lovell’s identity was stolen, and soon after, the woman responsible was arrested and sent to jail. Lovell decided to use the theft as inspiration for a new project, however, and she tracked down the thief to document her every move.
“I wanted to build a portrait of her as a way to understand the choices she made that led to our paths crossing,” Lovell said to SF Gate. “Those were her choices, not mine.”
Lovell hired a private investigator to track down the woman, Erin Coleen Hart, after she was arrested and served time for the fraud. Instead of confronting her, Lovell followed her all over Oakland, California, and photographed her when she got the opportunity. Once she had enough photographs, Lovell created a new exhibition titled “Dear Erin Hart” and even sent an invitation for the opening to Hart herself.
“It was high-speed adrenaline. I’m jumping in and out of the SUV photographing her,” said Lovell. “She hops on the bus, she gets off the bus. She goes to Goodwill. I mostly was going to these places to just get a feeling of her, a closeness. I interviewed landlords, I interviewed security guards. She lived in some pretty nice places. She definitely knew that she was being followed, and I could tell she deliberately lost me.”
Lovell’s exhibit opened back in October, and it’s not clear if Hart ever showed up.
“This woman entered my life without my permission,” said Lovell, “and I then used that experience without her permission to create something new.”