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.



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”

  • What I fail to understand is how I thought authorship was one of the most important ingredients in winning the EPF award. I’ve been wondering around this girl’s website and her work is absolutely brilliant and drenched in that magic ingredient and this essay in question is highly original far more memorable than this year’s winner and just as strong authorship.

  • “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”

    Who said anything about celebrity? Surely (again!) if the work is good enough, it’s good enough…. Anyway; isn’t there a long lead-in process to becoming a Magnum member? I’m sure if the selected nominee doesn’t live up to expectations they will be given the flick.

    Now; I’ll try to find a towel to wrap my camera up, and put it in the tumble dryer. An hour or so’s tumbling should make it look battered enough to be taken seriously… ;-)

  • marcin luczkowski

    “battered Nikon F’s and processing and printing grainy film in a closet”

    Jim is just romantic.


    well they moved the lighthouse a few years ago back from the beach…it just isn’t a cool picture anymore…and besides i did an outer banks story for NatGeo back in the late eighties (working the hell out of this gig) and i did have a picture of the lighthouse…i mean how many times in one career can i publish a picture of the Hatteras light? i know what you mean about ideas…they are miracles when they happen but you can’t make them happen…i wish i knew for sure what chemistry it takes…for me anyway, i think i have to be either really in love or really not in between is, well, no mans land

    cheers, david

  • No, Ross, the proper way to beat up a camera is to do like David Hemmings in Blow Up and store it in the map pocket of your car. It’s hard to beat up modern cameras, though.

  • Awww, I wanna beat up Nikon and a pocket full of tri x. Still got a Leitz enlarger and stuff in storage.

  • Gordon, just for you, the last of my beat up Nikon F’s. I beat it up pretty good back in the day. :)

  • PAUL

    you are correct in thinking the EPF is all about authorship…that is why of course all of the finalists are chosen for their authorship…all of them…the jurors start with this assumptio when they choose the recipient…Matt Lutton came out ahead by a juried vote…this does not mean that those who were not voted “first place” do not have authorship ..of course they do….Bieke was not chosen by this jury to even be a runner up…miscarriage of justice?

    i do not think so…Bieke is now a nominee into Magnum…Matt Lutton not….so a different “jury”, and with a different set of parameters did choose Bieke…yet from a different set of candidates…any jury has its own parameters and in the case of the EPF is based on one essay which the photographer submits…photographers for the EPF are submitting one project which they want to carry forward…no jury is digging into the photographer’s website as you have done..they are going with what is before them….and of course one jury member might be for one and another jury member be for another and it is the combined tally of votes that determines the recipient..surely you cannot fault the brilliant authored work of Matt Lutton…yet if you were on the jury, you may well indeed have voted for Bieke….conversely not all Magnum members voted for Bieke , but the combined voting total gave her the nod…

    for sure you will see all of the names of the EPF finalists in the future…go back and look at our past finalists and you will see 90% of them everywhere…go peek again at Burn 01…some who were unknown then, are very well know now….some winning one award,others winning another, some never entering anything but having a new book or top assignment….nobody gets everything…ie.Alex Webb got the Amazon project..i would have died for that…i got the Rio project, i am sure Alex would have died for that….photographers who do have real authorship will come out on top one way or another, yet not every time..however, enough of the time to establish themselves as important photographers…

    real authors will never be denied….the yardstick will vary, but those with the “right stuff” will measure up every time….

    cheers, david

  • JIM …

    your photo of your Nikon F looks exactly as does mine…my weapon of choice while at the Topeka Capital-Journal, Richmond Times-Dispatch and on into my first assignments for NatGeo……nothing better than the worn off paint revealing brass!! i wore the “brass” with pride…no brass these days and no “one camera” either…i now have a shelf full of barely used digi cameras….nothing beats the old F or the M3…those icons became part of our whole “being”…hmmmm, is it time for a new iPhone?? my “old” one just isn’t cutting it….

    cheers, david


    If you don’t mind something out of the refrigerator, I do have something on family, family photographs, homicidal squirrels, lonely Naziettes, and why I am not Bill Gates. Will that do?

  • I have a Canon F1 that looks almost as bad as Jim’s Nikon, but I have to admit that I was not the one who made it look that bad. I got it at the camera pound, along with a little Canonet, just hours before the pound was going to put them to sleep.

  • marcin luczkowski

    I have fm2 looks a hell worse than Jim’s, all my cameras are old (even 100 yrs old), but for me it means nothing, ipad or nikon f… what’s the difference?
    I am sure after next 50 years some old sharks will talk about canon’s 5d or ipads the same way you did.

    I repeat you guys are just romantics.

    But who isn’t?

    Fore me it will be m6.

  • Akaky,, thank God there are angels out there like you.

  • marcin luczkowski

    iphone, not ipad

  • If the new iphone looks like this:

    then there’ll be a pretty good chance that you can make look like the Nikon F after some heavy use….no worries ;-)

  • Interesting that Bieke had the gumption to engage and then ask her subjects straight out if she could spend the night. Impressive, too. It just doesn’t square with me that she could do that, and then make photographs where she seems so disengaged from her subjects. There is a distance in the photography of this essay very reminiscent of Soth’s work.

    Jim Powers: Didn’t Hemmings drive about in a Rolls, or Bentley or Daimler in the movie? And didn’t all of those cars from that era have ermine-lined glove compartments? How the heck could a camera get brassed in that situation? ;)


    i am sure phone cameras will soon, if not already, kill the point and shoot camera market….serious photographers are using them seriously…as per Jim’s Sports Illustrated account…right now i too have a potential cover shot for RIO upcoming in NatGeo for the foreign editions shot with the iPhone…if they end up not using it, it won’t be because it’s a phone shot…at that small page size nobody can tell…i have other examples in my Rio book where i can show you one page shot with the M9 and an opposite page shot with the iPhone…i ask photogs to guess which is which…nobody knows…in low light one can tell, but in some cloudy day flat light situations, it is impossible, at small page size, to tell the difference…i still of course have my “real cameras” and for the large art market prints i am now making the iPhone won’t cut it…..but the GF1 does…super sized 60×40 prints from the GF1 look great….however, like everyone else, i shop around ..anybody know anything about the Olympus OMD??

    cheers, david


    nobody can beat the M6 as a workhorse camera……not sure why i gave up on 35mm film…i just did….i still shoot film but med format with the Mamiya VII…yet i am looking also at the Leica S2 or the b&w only new Leica….

  • David…

    I don’t know much about OMD but I bought the new version of the Panasonic GF1…

  • If I were looking for a new camera in that range, I’d take a serious look at the Fuji X-1 Pro. I bought the x1-100 about a year ago and have been very happy with it, flaws and all. From the reviews, it looks like the X-1 took care of a lot of the flaws.

    The focus speed on the x-100, btw, was greatly improved by a series of firmware updates. It’s not bad now, though still not as fast as the panasonics. Image quality, however, can’t be beat in that range of cameras.

  • David,

    Look at these numbers….and that was in 2010:

    December 4, 2010 Smartphone cameras displace point-and-shoots
    Key artifacts (‘article facts’):
    -19% decline in point-and-shoot camera sales by unit since 2008, according to NPD

    -24% decline in sales by dollars from $2.4 billion to $1.9 billion

    -29% increase in sales of more expensive, fully-featured S.L.R.s

    -50 billion photos uploaded to Facebook since 2004 (implies but provides no data that most are smartphones)

    -3 million photos a day uploaded to Flickr

    -IPhone is #1 camera uploading to Flickr, point-and-shoots are not in the top 5 (S.L.R.s occupy other top 5 spots)

    -82% of American homes have a point-and-shoot but for many it will be last purchase

    In Smartphone Era, Point-and-Shoots Stay Home
    The New York Times

  • marcin luczkowski


    Well, I completely don’t know why I stick with film. Probably no reasonable reason. The way of work?
    Mid format and LF beacuse large prints.

    leica s2 will be a great choice for you. Or other digital medium format camera.
    I see it: american family exhibition with large, full of details prints in white, clean big gallery space!

  • Honestly, the image quality of most of the stuff out now beyond the P&S cameras is good enough for just about anything I do. I have a Panasonic G2 that creates fine images, and I shoot mostly adapted Canon FD lenses on it! The 1D MkIV Canon is a killer sports camera, which I use because of the 10FPS and really fast autofocus, but who wants to lug it around for an everyday shooter. The Leica s2 creates killer files, but it and its lenses are just too expensive unless you really need big files for really big prints. And it is also a pretty big camera.

    As for DAH, it really doesn’t matter what he shoots with, the photos are going to be good.

  • I just bought the GX-1 and I am pretty happy with it, although it’s pretty clear that the accompanying software was written by a computer whose first language was not English. And now for something out of the refrigerator…

    Family photographs are wonderful things, or so people keep telling me, but I have very little use for them. I will admit to a certain amount of prejudice in the matter, as family photographs of my family invariably include members of my family (and I know this for a metaphysical certainty; I’ve seen some of those photographs and there are family members in every one of them. Really. I’m not kidding). Given that I do not want to see these people in the flesh, a phenomenon that ineluctably leads to my handing out money I will never see again, I do not care to see them in photographic reproductions in either color or black and white. To be honest, I find the idea of willingly looking at those people more than a bit nauseating, if not actually perverse, a vile and unnatural act akin to putting spicy brown mustard on chocolate ice cream or rooting for the Red Sox.

    I cannot say with metaphysical certainty when I developed this aversion to my own flesh and blood, but I am pretty sure that it arose in utero, when I learned that I was not going to be Bill Gates. I was profoundly nonplussed when I got the news, an understatement if there ever was one. I thought the interview had gone well and I knew that I’d scored high in the swimsuit competition and I was sure that things were going my way, so finding out that not only was I not in the running anymore, but that some little dweeb from Washington State had beaten me to the job did not make me very happy, as you might imagine. I knew that there was some chicanery afoot and I immediately demanded a recount, but alas, it was not to be. In such matters knowing the people who count the votes is much more important than having the voters on your side, and under the circumstances I had no choice but to concede. I didn’t like conceding, not by a long shot, but sometimes you’re just stuck with a bad hand. What can you do?

    In any case, the folks who decide these things did not take kindly to my challenging their decision and, in their infinite wisdom and not at all in a spirit of malice, payback, or making an example for others who might think that they got a raw deal as well, they dropped me into the Clan Bashmachkin, as ill-fated a crew that ever stepped into a pile of bad karma while walking down a city street. The relatives keep telling me that things could have been worse, which is an Irish way of keeping things in proportion: no matter how positively awful the bad thing that just happened to you was, it could have been much, much worse. They will then regale with a story about their Uncle Liam in Mullingar, who had a stroke in a barn while trying to saddle a horse and couldn’t move or call out for five hours and had to lay there up to his neck in chicken crap while the pigs ate his left leg down to the bone. The story is usually pointless: Uncle Liam is back in the saddle now, the stroke was minor, and he never liked his left leg when he had it nor does he miss the limb now that it’s gone; and even if the story is not entirely pointless, which is only true in a miniscule number of cases, I find that this is usually the sort of willful denial of reality that I would prefer to skip without hearing the punch line.

    You find this sort of denial everywhere these days if you really know where to look. Take squirrels, for example. Squirrels are homicidal little bastards, not that you would learn this from the press these days. Squirrels are one of the many species protected under the terms of the Disney Dispensation, which declares that all cute, furry mammals are cuter than a bug’s ear, an idiom I’ve never really understood, since if you could see a bug’s ear, assuming the bug in question has ears at all—some don’t, you know, even the ones who used to work for Richard Nixon—you would probably find the bug’s ear just as repulsive as the rest of the bug. Bugs, as a rule, do not fall under the protective folds of the Disney Dispensation; they tried, even picketing Disney Studios to get themselves included, but Walt brought in the strikebreakers—the Beagle Boys did the dishonors, as Uncle Scrooge McDuck was in Howdoyoustan that week foreclosing on a dung beetle—and broke the union; and now everyone everywhere may slaughter bugs in droves, hordes, masses, or whatever other collective adjective you wish to use without your conscience bothering you in the least.

    Squirrels, by contrast, are too damn cute for words. I realize that cuteness has its place in the world, preferably a place as far away from me as possible, but I should point out that no one thought the Nazis were cute either, except for the occasional lonely Naziette looking for a good time in occupied Paris. I realize that this bit about Nazis has nothing to do with squirrels and their effect on twenty-first century American social and political reality, but it does give me the chance to use the neologism Naziette in a sentence. If you don’t like Nazis, Naziettes, or neologisms, just skip this sentence and move on to the next one. It’s a pip… not this one, the next one. Cute or not, it is difficult to get Americans to see squirrels for the vicious and violently territorial critters they really are. Your average American will look upon a knockdown, drag out, winner take all grudge match between two squirrels over who gets an especially big acorn and smile and tell themselves, oh, isn’t that cute, look at those two sweet little squirrels playing with one another when what is actually going on is that the squirrels in question hate each other’s guts and are trying to sink their teeth into each other’s necks. I also doubt that most mothers in this country would want their offspring to hear the profanity laced abuse these two squirrels are heaping upon one another as this fight gets nastier and nastier. Like modern twelve-tone Moldavian folk opera, one appreciates the spectacle better when one doesn’t understand a word anyone is saying. Knowing only spoils the mystery.

    The same is true with your average family photograph. You’d never know from looking at them just how much your Uncle Harry hates his deadbeat brother in law, a perpetually unemployed doofus who lives in the cellar of Uncle Harry’s house rent-free because his wife says so or how many people in a wedding picture know that the father of the bride is not the proud man walking arm in arm down the aisle with the blushing bride, but the older gentleman with the incredibly bad toupee sitting two rows behind them on the left, the somewhat seedy looking man leaning over and whispering something into the ear of his fourth wife, a once and future ecdysiast who did not get the memo on the proper attire for a married woman at a Roman Catholic wedding and consequently looks as though she’s just looking for a handy Pole to leap onto. No, when the photographer is around snapping away everyone’s just one big happy family and don’t you forget it, buster, even if the family involved makes the Borgias look positively warm and fuzzy by comparison.

  • And something fresh out of the oven…

    As recent events in Florida clearly show, the education and training of young thugs in this our Great Republic is woefully adequate and, as so many things do these days, reflects poorly on the American system of education as a whole. To bring those of you who may not have heard about the Florida misadventure up to date, two young men entered an Internet café in Ocala, Florida a few days ago with the intention of robbing said establishment. They entered the café brandishing an unloaded pistol and demanded that the patrons empty their pockets and that the management open the cash register. At this point, an elderly gentleman sitting in the rear of the café produced a pistol of his own and began shooting. Our two young stalwarts, nonplussed at this turn of events, promptly turned tail and ran out of the café, tripping over themselves as they tried to escape the old geezer’s fusillade. This, it seems, was an unexpected and altogether surprising turn of events for both of these lads; after his arrest, one of these Jesse James’ manqués opined that maybe he should find some other line of endeavor, complained that the old man kept shooting at him even when he was down on the floor (he was still holding the pistol he came in with, apparently), and that he and his partner did not expect that anyone in the café would be armed. Knowing this beforehand, he believed, would have spared him the indignity of having the old man shoot him in the backside.

    It is this sort of ignominious disaster that makes John Q. Public wonder what kind of vocational guidance the criminal classes are getting in our schools these days. Clearly, these two young men did not read the vocational literature on armed robbery, which is quite extensive in both print and Internet form, and is very clear that one of the occupational hazards that armed robbers face as they attempt to practice their trade is getting shot by the people they are robbing, and if not by them, then by the police. That the schools allowed these young unfortunates to commence a life of crime without even telling them that buying a good pair of bulletproof jockey shorts would be a wise investment in their futures is nothing less than educational malpractice of the worst sort.

    Furthermore, it beggars the imagination that no one in a position of authority informed these two ignorant souls that Florida is a concealed carry state; that is, a state where a citizen in possession of a concealed carry permit may arm himself with a pistol and conceal the fact that he is packing heat from the public. These two young doofuses simply ran into the café and expected everyone to be unarmed, an assumption that may be true in, for instance, Great Britain, but is almost dangerously delusional in any state of the Old Confederacy. They would not have made such a ridiculous assumption if the schools had done their jobs and taught them how to commit an armed robbery properly in the first place. It was only their great good fortune that the gentleman with the concealed carry permit was a senior citizen whose aim was not very good; one shudders to think what would have happened if instead of an old man, the two young men faced an off-duty police officer or a Marine on leave trying to e-mail his friends in Afghanistan. Their attempts to break into the armed robbery field would have ended before they had a chance to go for a payroll or a bank.

    Frankly, I blame all of this on the American system of education. A system that the public cannot trust to teach students to read and write correctly can hardly be trusted with the training of young criminals. There are a few success stories, of course; the large population of drug dealers in this country shows that the schools can teach if they are motivated to do so, but except for narcotics trafficking and investment banking, there seems to be little interest in giving young people the training and skills necessary to advance a criminal career. I believe that our wounded young tyro is correct when he said that he would have to rethink his life. Given that the schools have left him unprepared for a life of crime, I think it advisable that he look into other, perhaps more remunerative lines of endeavor, such as plastic surgery, pineapple farming, or selling term life insurance to mimes. None of these fields involves gunplay of any sort, with the occasional exception of plastic surgery, and are all certainly easier on the practitioner’s buttocks than armed robbery is.

  • tech talk (money) ?
    look at this one:
    impressive video , Real HD( 1920 x 1080 (30,25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps), 640 x 424 (30, 25 fps))
    and a 24MP !!!????? sensor for only $699?

  • but its that “external mic” input, that allures me the most… anyway, wrong isle for tech talk under this essay…smiling…big hug y’all;)

  • The good news of the week is that the tests have come back from the lab and whatever other health problems I may have, cancer isn’t one of them. Given the relentlessly bad news I’ve been getting so far this year, this is like a ray of sunshine.

  • I really like this project, I find the intimacy of the photos very interesting and not as simple as they seem at first glance.

  • My drift away from photography continues as the books keep evolving …………

  • Phone camera images are a bit thin on the dynamic range to do some serious push and grunt in the digital darkroom at this stage of development. Big files are the best as one can nuke and destroy them

  • PANOS:

    tech talk (money) ?
    look at this one:
    impressive video , Real HD( 1920 x 1080 (30,25, 24 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps), 640 x 424 (30, 25 fps))
    and a 24MP !!!????? sensor for only $699?

    yes, but as the young boys all want to hear in their fumblings in the dark “but it’s huge!”


    “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.”

    made me think about something I have been noticing, and been annoyed with on the interwebz lately….it seems that every time I click on a headline “news” story on a page anymore, I get not a written news article, but a small box with talking heads telling me the story, as if I wanted an on-demand TV show broadcast….

    with the plethora of video and imagery being used in place of the written word, are we heading back to that oral/visual storytelling of the news? Will future generations even WANT to read articles, or books? And what implications could that have on us in the long term….

    Perhaps it’s the red wine, but I find that path rather disturbing…..

  • oral/visual storytelling of the news…….

    ……. my take is that that is a positive path to follow. There is a need to change the way it is presented this image text video as independent units and having to jump from one to the other was probably ok when one read the paper in front of the television but these days our lifestyles and information gathering are drastically different. A new format is needed which naturally is a technological extension of oral/visual storytelling.
    The so called third world countries are in on the ride this time as wi-fi is the name of the game

    Here are some artists well and truly on the way
    ps you need google chrome it is a start beats just taking pictures ………. we will read articles and create some may create books …….others will just follow with Instagrams or something of that ilk’

    exciting times and we have removed film from the grubby hands of documentors and handed back the film to the creative communicators ………….

  • digital imagery is in the tumble drying and spitting out is new forms and trances

  • digital imagery is in the tumble dryer and spitting out are new forms,trances, ideas, frustrations, death of film as we know it, nuances as for me just as I thought the train was at a station it went on and on and on

  • Akaky & Bill (Frostfrog),

    So glad to read you guys are cancer-free! :-)

    All the best,

  • as newsprint shrinks images get better

  • – as newsprint shrinks images get better –

    Oh yeah! definitely, it’s really invigorating to see photography going further and further.
    I like what you said about the need to change the way things are presented. I think we need to see something new and different. Multimedia is a beautiful thing it that sens, it makes the experience so much more profound and interesting. You can go even deeper in the exploration of a subject and bring a completely new level of understanding.

  • I am a little late dropping into this one, but… what a powerful essay! Having looked at it like this, I think had I been a judge I might well have voted this one the winter. I did wonder a little bit about gaining someone’s trust only to then show them to the world sitting on the pot, looking miserable, but then sitting on the pot looking miserable is a part of life and so if the subject is good with it, okay.

    It looks like this has become the default thread, so I will continue…

  • Civi… I apologize profusely for missing your birthday. This may be hard to understand but, on my birthday, I hit a pyschological point where I had just had to withdraw from the next, period. I had to curl up into my own mind and shut as much as the rest of the world out. This has really turned into an ordeal, especially as a result of the second, unplanned, emergency surgery I underwent July 9. I separated myself from Facebook and quit visiting my regular sites – even Burn. I didn’t even put up a blog post for several days and the only reason I did then was that I knew a number of people were growing unnecessarily worried about me and I wanted to put their minds at ease.

    Justin – Yes, when the doctor told me no cancer was found, it was a great relief. I kind of wish I did not have to subject myself to this ordeal to find out, but they tell me if I hadn’t the cancer would have come and so it is best that I did and I expect to be well in a month or so.

    Akaky – So good to read you are cancer free!

  • DAH – I am certain I have it and more, but, just to be safe, I need at least two weeks before I advance on this little project I have kept you informed about. I tried to inform you by text, but your text is not available and I do not trust emails when it comes to them getting through to you in any kind of timely manner.

  • I guess that the same pressures are not felt in the wwwdot world so great images are lost in the don’t care about what happens attitude that abounds.

    Then again we could eventually lose all that freedom we are used to, restrictions are bound to rearvtheir ugly heads. There will always be a power base, time will only reveal if it is directly obvious or we get worn down and not notice the rights we forgo for a bit of pseudo limelight.

    Meanwhile we are free to play”……….

  • The seeming unlimited willingness of creatives to give away their work will eventually make us all hobbyists.

  • Maybe that’s the situation just s some antiques are no longer worth much due to eby(stuff wasn’t rare as made to believe) the photographic image no longer has the same value. Your time in the sun is over Jim even your wording such s hobbiest is done and dusted”…..

  • Actually, Imants, I’ve never been in the sun. Just a blue collar news shooter.

    The problem with the “free” model is that, eventually, all of us boomers will die, and the folks producing all of this stuff for free will have to move out of their dead parent’s basement and get a real job, only to find that “free” won’t pay the bills. Serious problem, really.

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