Bieke Depoorter (born 1986) is a Belgian photographer. She is a member of Magnum Photos
and has published four books: Ou Menya
, I am About to Call it a Day
, As it May Be
, and Sète#15
. Depoorter received a master's degree in photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent in 2009.
The relationships Depoorter establishes with the subjects of her photographs lie at the foundation of her artistic practice. Accidental encounters are the starting point, and how these interactions naturally develop dictate the nature of Depoorter’s work. Many of her self-initiated projects are about intimate situations in families and in peoples' homes. For her graduation project and her first book, Ou Menya
(2011), she made three trips to Russia, photographing people in their homes that she met whilst travelling around. The series won the 2009 Magnum Expression Award. Bieke Depoorter made the work for her second book, I am About to Call it a Day
(2014) in a similar way whilst hitchhiking and driving around the U.S.
However several recent projects have been the result of Depoorter questioning the medium. In As it May Be
, she gradually became more aware of her status as an outsider, both culturally and as a photographer. So, in 2017, she revisited Egypt with the first draft of the book, inviting people to write comments directly onto the photographs. In Sète#15
, and also Dvalemodus
, a short film she co-directed together with Mattias De Craene, she began to see her subjects as actors. Although she portrayed them in their true environments, she tried to project her own story onto the scenes, fictionalizing the realities of her subjects in a way that blurred the lines between their world and hers.
In the ongoing project Agata
, a project about a young woman Depoorter met at a striptease bar in Paris in October 2017, she explores her interest in collaborative portraiture. It’s an example of Depoorter’s interest in finding people that can work with her in telling a story. These stories are always partially hers, and partially theirs.
In her latest project Michael
, she investigates the disappearance and life of a man she met on the streets of Portland in 2015. After giving her three suitcases full of scrapbooks, notes and books, everyone lost sight of him.
Bieke Depoorter became a nominee member of Magnum Photos in 2012, an associate member in 2014, and a full member in 2016. She is the fourth Belgian member of the agency, after Carl De Keyzer
, Martine Franck
, Harry Gruyaert
Depoorter has won the Magnum Expression Award, The Larry Sultan Award and the Prix Levallois.
For the past six years, Bieke Depoorter has spent countless nights photographing perfect strangers—people that she encounters on the street who are willing to open their homes to Depoorter and her camera. The project began when she was travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway, in 2008. She didn’t speak the language, so photography became her mode of communication. (She carried a letter that a friend wrote in Russian that explained her intent.) After publishing the work as a book, called Ou Menya,
Depoorter headed to the United States, in 2010, where she hitchhiked and drove around the country, creating the collection found in her latest book, I Am About to Call It a Day.
The project, both intimate and removed, hinges upon Depoorter’s ability to build trust within a tight timeframe. In many of the photographs, she seems to go unnoticed, capturing the unguarded moments found only in the privacy of one’s own home. “I like the atmosphere of the night,”
Depoorter told me. “When people go to sleep, I think it’s most real. No one is looking at them, and they become their true selves.”
She told me that her process is intrinsic to the success of her images. “I try to not hope for a picture,”
she said. “I am there as a person first, and a photographer second.”
Source: The New Yorker