bieke depoorter – i am about to call it a day

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EPF 2012 Finalist

 

Bieke Depoorter

‘I Am About To Call It A Day’

play this essay

 

‘I am about to call it a day’ is a sequel on ‘Ou Menya’, a project where I entered the intimacy of families in Russia, while spending one night with them.
This time, I have travelled through the United States. It is a series of portraits of places and people where I spent the night while passing through. I meet my family-for-the night on the streets. The social contact, the short and intense encounters and the mutual trust for them to take me into their most intimate privacy is an important element in my work.

 

Bio

Bieke Depoorter (1986) received her master’s degree in photography from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent in 2009. She is mostly working on autonomous projects. In search of family intimacy, she spends the night at people’s houses. This year her first book ‘Ou Menya’ was published. Since 2011 Bieke is member of the Paris-based photo agency/collective Tendance Floue.

 

145 Responses to “bieke depoorter – i am about to call it a day”


  • Fantastic, I love this. Great photography does all kinds of things, including the powerful act of revealing the human condition in ways that we hadn’t quite see it before. These photographs owe a lot to the back story, which is why they don’t need captions. I don’t think the photographs would stand on their own without that story…but I don’t see why that has to be a problem. Altogether it works and works well.

    We can see the problems in the world from so many angles, but we won’t do anything until we see ourselves. That’s why I think attempts to help us see ourselves can be important (and that’s why I think some photographs that don’t challenge our delusions–that confirm the stories we want to tell–can do harm).

  • BTW, remember the guy traveling across America to write a book about kindness, but then he shot himself and said a passing motorist had done it? He wasn’t trying to find truth; he was trying to make a story that would sell, a story that would confirm our suspicions of the problems and our hope in the end.

    I guess a test of this photographer is whether she is discovering or shaping.

  • I think this project seriously needs some accompanying text to give us some kind of clue to what the photographer is seeing. Because as is, I’m not getting any kind of story or purpose. It looks to me like simple voyeurism. One can argue that all documentary photography is to some extent an invasion of privacy, but we justify that by having a larger purpose. But if that’s not the case here, if it is just simple voyeurism, a more-or-less home invasion, then I find this work distasteful, to put it mildly. I’m not saying that’s the case. One can obviously argue that the bric-a-brac of private spaces sheds light on big picture issues. Is that what we’re supposed to see here? If so, I think it requires some more extensive written guidance.

    The question of voyeurism (irregardless the answer for this particular essay) also brings up a larger issue of hypocrisy. Would I even blink if these were pictures of African villagers? Do I find that kind of “look Ma, somebody different!” voyeurism distasteful only when the lens is turned on my own culture? And it begs the question, is simple voyeurism purpose enough for documentary photography?

  • I like this a lot. Kind of a Tina Barney goes sluming look. I agree that it really needs text, though, to give the individual photos some context.

  • This is just totally freakin’ insane. I love it! (Jim, you are so totally right on sometimes.)

    Yes, I am curious about context. However without it we are free to speculate. Voyeurism?…well yeah, but hey, she was invited in, here we are, freaky shit and all. More, more!

    Amazing stuff Beike, congratulations.

  • A fantastic concept, and a brave project. As photographers we often seek or desire invisibility… one has the feeling with this series that Beike has bared herself to her subjects with an honesty that has allowed them to feel comfortable with her occupying their space… Though the subjects may not always be confronting the camera, Bieke is present in these images, and especially in the photographs portraying loneliness, as in image #19, the idea of her sharing this space with her subjects is poignant, encompassing beauty and sadness… Kudos – some really wonderful images here… will seek out your past work. Thanks.

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    Enjoy this immensely. I’m not sure that text would add to this; perhaps the opposite. I enjoy the uncertainty of exactly where you are and one is left, using the available clues, to figure something out. That is where the heart of this is. So very nice.

  • I want to say again, simply, that when you know the back story the pictures are better without captions. They are like mysteries, mini-stories. Captions would just get in the way and probably ruin the moment. If these were in a book I’d put the captions at the end of the whole thing. The actual facts probably aren’t as interesting OR REVEALING as what we can imagine.

  • Love this: a great (brilliantly simple) idea, perfectly realised. Bravo.

  • I’ve seen this before. I loved it then and I love it now. And the “prequel” story ‘Ou Menya’ was just as wonderful.
    I don’t need captions personally, words with just “explain”, describe and add nothing. For me at least. These are people’s houses that took a stranger for one night. That’s enough.
    My immense gratitude Bieke.

  • I love this idea…..
    and your photos only want me to learn more about the families…..
    what a great experience for YOU and your subjects!!!!!!!
    those that have less, always seem to give more…….
    ***

  • Very good project, you clearly went deep in order to get what you wanted and that is admirable.
    The question of voyeurism brought by MW is a very good and important one I think. I don’t think that it is only an aspect of documentary photography. Of course, the whole person of this kind of photography is to go where people can’t go, I don’t see it as voyeurism per say, but more like the subject gave permission to the photographer to tell a part of it’s story, but not every photographer use this kind of approach. Granted, it is not always done very well, but in this case I think we can agree that the effort of Bieke to go beyond simple voyeurism is worthy of recognition.

    And honestly, what is it with people always wanting captions, I understand the point of it and it’s a really important thing for some project, but I think people are starting to depend way too much on it. We need to observe more, take our time with the images, then the meaning will reveal itself.

  • The meaning can never reveal itself. They are, after, only photos. Without words, they can only reflect the observer.

  • Yea words we depend far too much on those pesky things………… I will leave you with my response

    ..@#$%%ẦḊỂṔỜĮ%^&ǡạąáṾǕ ŁḸḾṀ ƗȈềǵềƶẕb Ʃṵṻǵ and ṇņŏṍǿȑ or maybe ĥḣǵě⁊#§❞❢❢℗™! …..if you take your time the meaning will reveal itself, if not well you will have to rely on osmosis

  • since this EPF closed and during the Magnum meeting in Arles, France two weeks ago Bieke was selected to nominee status into Magnum…she is just 23….Bieke still has a long way to go to becoming a full Magnum member, but she is off to a great start….welcome Bieke…..

    cheers, david

  • I’m not convinced 23 year olds should be Magnum nominees. I can, however, understand the pressure Magnum feels to make it so.

  • Common Jim someone has to keep those old farts honest

  • I don’t know. I thought Magnum looked for nominees with a significant body of work over time. Has the cult of the young taken over Magnum’s thinking, now?

  • JIM POWERS

    not right Jim..significant body of work CAN be good, but definitely not the “rule”..only authorship matters…Donovan Wylie came in at 19 i think (late eighties)…and Alex Majoli was 22 or so (mid nineties), and Larry Towell had zero experience when he came in ..only one story……so, we often prefer not much experience….let them grow into Magnum….age not really a factor one way or the other..Gilden was older , Cristina Garcia Rodero was older, Goldberg was and so was I…it will take 6 years minimum for Bieke to become a full member..by that time we will know…all things being equal (which they never are) younger would always make more sense of course…but the exceptions are almost the “rule”…anything can happen….again,only authorship matters…

    cheers, david

  • marcin luczkowski

    I am quite surprised who was nominee this year. But in positive way. I didn’t know this photographers before. Zoe strauss and Bieke Depoorter is excellent choice. inconclusive, but the forward-looking. Jerome Sessini is just great photojournalist. I am sure he will be valuable part of magnum famili.
    Now I will looking forward how Zoe and Bieke will challenge the world.

  • ..@#$%%ẦḊỂṔỜĮ%^&ǡạąáṾǕ ŁḸḾṀ ƗȈềǵềƶẕb Ʃṵṻǵ and ṇņŏṍǿȑ or maybe ĥḣǵě⁊#§❞❢❢℗™! …..if you take your time the meaning will reveal itself, if not well you will have to rely on osmosis

    Come on Imants, you can’t compare imagery to words in that sort of way hahaha. Sure context can help a lot to understand a subject, but it’s not always necessary. I mean look at painting, (ok maybe not the best example but humour me.) especially the academic period, the painters used to put intense and profound messages and meaning and didn’t put any captions, yet people still understands them. I think it’s the same with photography, even in documentary. The small description that Bieke gave was quite enough in my opinion.
    Maybe I’m wrong and what I’m saying makes absolutely no sense, but I think we forget that if the work is done properly, we don’t need a detail explanation to understand whats going on.

  • You know, I wrote something years ago about how the only way I could ever get into Magnum was if Capa in 1948 needed another person with $400 in ready cash and I was the only one available. I was going to find it in Road Trips and repost it here. It’s not there, so my memory must be playing tricks on me again. Still, I did like going through the archive. It was pretty cool, I thought, reading through everyone’s pet obsessions at the time, although from what I read I was funnier in Road Trips than I am here in Burn. I wonder why that it is.

  • Most people were illiterate and relied on story telling. The artists subjects are of popular culture of the day. People understood the visual language that was presented, it was not agame of esoterics. Some artists created double meanings that were understood by small sectors of society. You understand some specta due to your historical knowledge present Rennaisance work to a Burmese farmer and he will as for further explanation about the work.
    Most artists go at great lengths to explain what they are trying to present, Plus there are all those minifestos etc. Who better to explain than the artist.

    Take the photo of the guy in the wheel chair, for. strt I do not need. photo to show me tht people fall sleep in wheel chairs(that is information I already posses). S is it because he could’t get into bed, is it about his family not giving a shit about him, is it about his refusal to sleeping in the bed? etc all speculation on my part As for the meaning, who knows it could be that peole in wheel chairs have a hard time??..
    Now with the essay as awhole unit I can take a more informed direction here the artist’s intent and concept are explained in the preamble. I have been informed, now The essay’s pieces can fall into place. As for the single image well back to speculation maybe the photograph is about that a photographer wha stays overnight is more important than this guy or maybe it is a set up and he his a cagy old coot playing possum fot attention. Askthe photographer if you want to know

  • awhole unit? nice pun ;-)

  • The above shows claerly that my keypad skills on a ipad are up the shit……..

    Most people were illiterate and relied on story telling, the artists subjects are of popular culture of the day and people understood the visual language that was presented.It was not a game of esoterics as with today’s contemporary art. Some artists created double meanings that were understood by small sectors of society, that highlights the provincial nature of art. You understand some aspects of academic art due to your historical knowledge. Present a Rennaisance work to a Burmese farmer and he will as for further explanation about the work.
    Most artists go at great lengths to explain what they are trying to present, plus there are all those artist’s minifestos etc to assist with understanding and meaning. Who better to explain than the artist.

    Take the photo of the guy in the wheel chair, for a start I do not need a photo to show me tht people fall sleep in wheel chairs(that is information I already posses). So is the photograph about that he couldn’t get into bed, is it about his family forgetting about him, is it about his refusal to sleeping in the bed, does he live alone? etc……. all speculation on my part. As for the meaning, who knows it could be that people in wheel chairs have a hard time??..
    Now with the essay as a whole unit I can take a more informed direction here the artist’s intent and concept are explained in the preamble,I have been informed, now the essay’s pieces can fall into place. As for the single image well back to speculation maybe the photograph is about that a photographer who stays overnight is more important than than a guy in a wheel chair or maybe it is a set up and he is a cagey old coot playing possum for attention. Ask the photographer if you want to know more.

    …..now that is better

  • “Has the cult of the young taken over Magnum’s thinking, now?”

    Man that sounds like sour grapes…. Surely; if the work is good enough, then it is good enough. Who cares about the age? I was looking at the work of Jost Franko who is now part of the VII mentor programme; he is only 19! I say good luck to him; I’d hate to hold him back because he wasn’t “old enough”. Again; it just sounds like sour grapes…

    http://www.viiphoto.com/showstory.php?nID=1394
    http://www.viiphoto.com/showstory.php?nID=1387

  • Magnum!!! members should be kicked out at 28.74 and reinstated at 56

  • ……..easy set your phone message reminder for those two dates and get on with it

  • Imants

    Well like I said it’s not the best example, art was meant for high society, which was very well educated. Normal people didn’t really have access to art until the 19th century. To understand a lot of very well knowed paintings, one must have a good knowledge of history but also mythology and symbolism. But that’s hardly the subject. It all depends on what the photographer wants, does he want his project to be as informative as possible, or does want us to let us make our imagination go, let us make our own conclusion? If the latter, it brings out the question, is it still documentary?
    I’m wondering…

  • “Normal people didn’t really have access to art until the 19th century.” That is a ridiculous statement people have accesses art in all walks of life since well we were around as humans. Or are you playing the art for elitists card?

    We are not talking about conclusions or imaginations I am referring to “take our time with the images, then the meaning will reveal itself.”

  • “Man that sounds like sour grapes”

    It’s not sour grapes at all, Ross. I feel sorry for the 23 year olds now. I was 23 in a time of unlimited opportunity for a 23 year old making a living with a camera. Despite (or because of) the billions of photos being produced and uploaded to the web each year, there are fewer opportunities for a kid obsessed with photography as I was to make it professionally.

    My fear, in fact what I see, is that the reaction to all of this is to lower the bar, when I think we should be raising the bar. These young folks are not carrying around battered Nikon F’s and processing and printing grainy film in a closet. They need time, not celebrity.

  • marcin luczkowski

    Jim,

    from one side hard to not agree with you Jim, but from another side make a faith with people.
    beeing celebrity in art proffesion is overreacted. Mostly succes gives freedom and selfconfidence wings, not crown of glory.

  • MARCIN

    yes, i felt very very good about this year’s nominees…well balanced…correction on the age of Bieke…she is 26 not 23….

    JIM

    celebrity? the bar gets raised higher all the time…i think the problem is you know just enough, but not anywhere near enough, of the process and of the bodies of work….a little bit of knowledge, as always, is a dangerous thing….yet i understand human nature well enough to totally understand why Magnum has always been, and will always be, a big target…i just hope that young photographers realize the role Magnum has played for everyone in holding high authorship and photographers ownership rights…Magnum is 65 this year…maybe that is enough…maybe game over…rare for any artistic movement to go past even 30 years…we will see

    cheers, david

  • “Take the photo of the guy in the wheel chair, for a start I do not need a photo to show me tht people fall sleep in wheel chairs(that is information I already posses). So is the photograph about that he couldn’t get into bed, is it about his family forgetting about him, is it about his refusal to sleeping in the bed, does he live alone? etc…….”

    Or could it be about nothing more than the photographer getting access to some wheelchair-bound guy’s bedroom?

    Regarding the text, or lack thereof, in this piece; most often I prefer little or no text, especially if it explains what the work is about; double especially if it comes from the photographer. I didn’t have a negative thought about this work when I saw it in the text free Look3 presentation. But after reading Depoorter’s text and looking at the photos anew — She trolls strangers on the street, invites herself to spend the night with them, then photographs them in their bedrooms — my initial reaction was that the whole thing is downright creepy.

    Oh, I can talk myself out of that view, but it was my genuine, unthought-out reaction. My unconscious first impression. As a photographer who has always had ambivalent feelings about the métier, it’s the kind of thing I can’t help but explore. In this case, with that artist statement, I think we can see a profound difference in how photographers view the world as opposed to how normal people see things. I think normal people are more likely to find the idea of a person trolling strangers in order to invite herself to spend the night at their houses and photograph them in their bedrooms as creepy. Photographers, on the other hand, are more likely to see successfully pulling off that stunt as something more akin to winning the gold medal at the Olympics. The degree of difficulty is off the scale. How can we not applaud?

    For me, as someone who tries to keep a foot in both worlds, I find I need there to be some kind of noble purpose on the part of the photographer for me to appreciate work like this that so egregiously invades people’s privacy. That’s why I would like to see more explanation for this essay. What is the photographer tryng to communicate with these images? Is this about anything more than the stunt. The degree of difficulty? Is it about anything deeper than winning a gold medal? If it is about something deeper, which I’m willing to trust is the case, why is the stunt aspect of it just about all the photographer talks about in the artist statement?

    Personally, I’d try to find a writer who would say that the work is a powerful statement about the dignity and humanity that is inherent in all people. Because, negative first impression aside, I like to think that’s what the work is really about. That’s what the photographs communicate. Unfortunately, the text can too easily be construed as communicating something else entirely.

  • This is an outstanding project created by a remarkable photographer. Voyeurism/documentary, captions/no captions, expanded text/no text, young artist/old artist, Magnum nominee/not a Magnum nominee…none of it matters when you see such an original (and courageous) concept, executed in such a masterful, heart-encompassing, curiosity-inspiring way.

    This is just dead-out fabulous. Brava to Bieke! I can’t wait to see more of her work and how she evolves as an artist. Thanks, DAH, for introducing her here. What a treat!

    Patricia

  • marcin luczkowski

    I know the example is from art not photography, but Zbigniew Libera one of the best and world well known polish artist confess lately he afraid his old washing machine will broke soon, and he will have problem with money to buy new one.

    So beeing well known, or beeing in well knowing group means less celebrity and more and more hard work.

    Think about pressure the will feel now. To produce better work, and the better.

    from one side stimulating, from another overwhelming.

    Anyway from obserwer perspective excellent choice this year!

  • marcin luczkowski

    should be

    Think about pressure they will feel now. To produce better work, and then better.

  • PATRICIA LAY DORSEY

    exactly….some people have a really hard time just looking at pictures and enjoying them…..or simply admitting that a photographer might really just “have it” as Bieke so obviously does…i do appreciate you being here and for your always intelligent well thought out comments…

    cheers, david

  • MARCIN

    i struggle to pay my expenses every month…..yet i am happy…i do not complain…when i was on the staff at NatGeo a few years ago and had no financial problems, yet i was miserable..not with them, but with me… i knew i had to go to the edge….so i left financial security…i never looked back..best move i ever made…i have no bosses…don’t owe anybody anything…and i feel i have an open canvas….as i tell my students, if you THINK you are lucky, then you ARE lucky…

    nice to see you back here Marcin..today, we have the old gang!! cool

    cheers, david

  • AKAKY

    i honestly do not remember that story….but sounds true……you ready for another front page text essay?

  • marcin luczkowski

    David,

    Yes, I just try to say in proffesion like ours being celebrity is quite misunderstanding. You are well known, but it’s not mean your position is given forever, or give you privilage like celebrities have (maybe during festivals or exhibitions openings).
    And Magnum, I am not an expert at all, for sure it’s reason for pride, but I think its also big responsibility for you own career.

    David, It is always pleasure to be here :)

  • some people have a really hard time just looking at pictures and enjoying them…

    This is one of those cases where I actually was able to just look at the pictures and enjoy them. Then I read the artist statement and it seriously challenged my ability to enjoy the pictures.

    I suspect that too often Photographs are like sausages; it’s best not to know how they were made.

  • As I said in my original post, I really like these photos. And then what?

  • Fascinating work, fantastic eye. I do wish she had at least given us name and place. Don’t really need anymore story than that though – plenty of “stories” here being told by the photos themselves.

  • In my opinion, many people over-intellectualize pictures/photography. I personally don’t give a rat’s ass about captions. If they’re there, ok good, maybe they will add value, maybe not. But at the end of the day, the reason I buy photo books, and the reason why I come to this site (and other sites), is to LOOK AT PICTURES.

    And just as I was going to post this, Jim Powers wrote: “I really like these pictures. And then what?” Who says there has to be a “and then”? Personally, I will leave it at “I really like these pictures”. No “and then” for me.

  • JIM POWERS

    no criticism of you intended Jim…your comments were straightforward and your questions about Magnum 100% legit….you commented,i commented back…that’s why we are here….

    MARCIN

    because of the internet, and Magnum, and Burn, i end up being known by probably too many people in these photo events…and i go to find new photographers and in the case of the last three events i was chosen to show my work one way or another or to show the work of Burn photographers…

    everyone wants peer respect of course for their work, but that is way different than “celebrity”…celebrity in and of itself is the enemy…however, most of the time, as in my small town in Carolina, nobody gives a damn who i am or what i do…and i treasure that…where i live, the locals think i don’t have a job…

    i don’t fish, i don’t build houses, and i don’t bartend…the recent article in NatGeo on OBX made some aware, but i think they figured i just shot that on the weekend or something…or they wondered why i did not take a picture of the Hatteras Lighthouse…

    i sacrificed a bit of anonymity mostly because of the internet, and well i do provide an outlet for some…even now the Magnum photographers themselves want to publish a Burn book and for sure i will..this sacrifice for being a bit too known is balanced by the fact that i have no bosses as i said earlier…none…you see no sponsors or advertisers here…so while i was totally anonymous at the Topeka Capital Journal and the Richmond Times Dispatch, i had the terrible disadvantage of the advertisers of those publications creating a false photographic esthetic and often in the name of “balanced journalism”…

    i bought that for awhile , but now see it was a totally fake ethic…again, an ethic created by the department stores who paid my salary ..indirectly perhaps but with much influence over the content of the newspaper…so i have traded off the control by publishers/advertisers for being a bit too popular sometimes at a photo fest…

    but i know who i am and the work i must do…i have been shooting every day almost continuously since about 13…so my body of work runs way deep..only a piece is known….Burn etc is a payback for feeling blessed by my craft…yet my main work is to keep on working on my own photography..on some days i get off balance or lose sight of this…yet not for long…

    right now i am gearing up for another , and last big push to shoot American families…my darkroom is rocking..med format film is in the bag…

    when i am walking across a wheat field to meet a farmer whose family i want to shoot, that farmer has no clue who i am…he will accept me only on my own demeanor and his belief that i will do something representative of his life…

    i am just another guy standing there with a camera and a smile…whatever accolades i have mean nothing…and that is the way it should be…

    cheers, david

  • marcin luczkowski

    David,

    Ha ha, We never meet in real world, but if someone commanded me to describe you, I would use exactly the same words you used above. And in consideration of my English language skills I should be copy and paste text. I hope you know what I mean :)

    I hear about darkroom and american families. I know what keeps you drive. I keep fingers crossed and I hope I will see new stuff soon.

  • So why didn’t you take a picture of the Hatteras Lighthouse? That’d be a hell of a lot more interesting than a picture of a pompano being mugged for entertainment purposes.

  • Another full page text essay? YAHOO!!!![Not in any way to be considered a commercial endorsement; if Yahoo! wants me to endorse them then they can damn well pay for the privilege] Any ideas? Because I’m fresh out. Well, that’s not true; I do have one, but it refuses to gel, which is almost as annoying as not having any ideas at all.

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