Bieke Depoorter first met Agata in Paris, while working on assignment for the Paris Magnum Live Lab. “I was wandering around at night to find someone: people I feel attracted and inspired by, people that could help me to tell my story — a story that would be partially theirs as well. This is how I found Agata.” The pair met when Depoorter went for a drink at a striptease bar, where Agata was working. Their connection was immediate, intimate and mutual, and what transpired was an ongoing photo story that walks a thin line between documentary and fiction, with both the photographer and subject becoming contributors in the narrative. They continue collaborating and creating a space to explore the existential questions of life and the discovery of the complex layers of self. Depoorter and Agata have found that the key to unlocking the paradox of self is to slowly peel away the layers of ego, belief, and conditioning. In Depoorter’s hands, the photograph becomes the stage where truth and illusion weave a captivating spell.

Photography guides me into the routes where I can stay amazed

Bieke Depoorter
© Bieke Depoorter | Magnum Photos

Bieke Depoorter (1986, Belgium) received a master’s degree in photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent in 2009. Three years later, when just 25 years old, she was made a nominee of Magnum Photos, of which she was named a full member in 2016.

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 dictates the nature of Depoorter’s work. But 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 the ongoing project Agata, a project about a young women 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.

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