The latest of Magnum’s online, on-demand education series sees Bieke Depoorter teaching participants about her unique approach to developing projects. Bieke Depoorter: Chance Encounters is the third Magnum Learn course, following on from 2019’s Alec Soth: Photographic Storytelling, and 2018’s The Art of Street Photography.
Key to Bieke Depoorter’s approach to her work, and at the foundation of her artistic practice, are the relationships the photographer establishes with her subjects. Accidental encounters are often the starting point for projects: some years-long. How these interactions naturally develop dictates the nature of Depoorter’s work. Several recent projects have been the result of both chance meetings and the contemplation of nagging questions around the medium of photography itself.
In this course, Depoorter delves into her philosophy on working with people — one that is rooted in the idea of being “a person first, photographer second” — while also exploring the complexities that come with such an idea.. Participants will learn how she builds trust with her subjects in a short space of time, allowing her to create intimate portraits of near-strangers, as well as how to incorporate various aspects of this outlook and approach into their practices. Viewers of the course understand the benefits and complexities of photographic relationships, hearing from both Depoorter and her long-term subject and collaborator, Agata.
Depoorter also delineates her journey as an artist — from her very first photographs to her latest projects — revealing the challenges faced and lessons learned along the way. Viewers learn how to develop projects, embrace what Depoorter calls the “side paths” that the world offers up, and maintain momentum while working on long-term projects. Over more than three hours students will receive guidance on how to edit their work and sequence images, alongside advice on the necessary considerations when presenting work in both photobooks and exhibitions.
The course sees Depoorter offering advice and insights on a wide-range of topics as well as reflections on the challenges of creating, the complex nature of photography as a medium, and the importance of recognizing the position of the photographer as an outsider. Depoorter also speaks at length about the origins of her celebrated book projects Ou Menya (2008 – 2009), I Am About To Call It A Day (2010 – 2014), As It May Be (2011-2017) and ongoing long-term investigations into two individuals she met by chance: Agata and Michael. Additional learning materials include workbooks containing advice, tips and tricks, and further reading, as well as assignments designed by Magnum Photos.