'I am about to call it a day'
A jaundiced light envelops the wood, attempting to restrain the pitch‐black night
from darkening the surrounding grounds. Like a thief in the night, we catch sight
of a female silhouette stretched out, an image of oblivion against the wooded
backdrop. The blue white polka dot bathing suit almost escapes the eye. How
easily the gaze adjusts, marveling at the shadow play in the background. Yet,
much the way we might discover people worshipping the sun at summer
beaches, we now watch a figure moon bathing in the nightly gloom.
Her mind wanders off to places that are beyond our ken. Lying in a stone bath,
she hasabandoned the outside world, shaken it off like water off a duck’s back.
She appears to reach out, her hand presumably waiting to be kissed. We imagine
how she might slowly, gradually disappearinto the man‐sized hole.
The tainted light, which had just seemed somewhat unsettling, now reveals
agolden glimmer, as though capturing or conjuring this ostensibly unattended
moment. It is hard to fathom that this scene could possibly have taken place
anywhere, anytime. It is even harder to fathom how skillfully the photographer
has succeeded in making this moment seem perfectly self‐evident.
As a follow‐up to her widely acclaimed book Ou Menya, Bieke Depoorter traveled
to the United States, spending the night at the homes of perfect strangers, whose
paths she crossed upon her wanderings. However, as we leaf through the book, it
would hardly cross our minds that these people ever had Bieke's company. They
seem utterly oblivious, about to call it a day, as if the photographer has managed
to make herself unseen, leaving only her eye behind.
In reality, she won their hearts by candidly admitting to her own vulnerability. In
turn, they confided in her, and so we watch these fleeting figures forever waving
to us, signaling that they are still here, living their lives despite the strife and
We are immersed in obscurity. We find ourselves scarcely scratching the surface
of these unpolished and unvarnished images. A surreal breeze drifts through the
portraits and landscapes in this book despite their documentary nature, while
the visual idiom inclines towards the cinematographic. Maybe these images
were not meant to be fathomed; rather, the photographer is acutely aware of the
inarticulate and the ineffable, melting away into thin air ever so easily. We watch
how everything puzzles into place within the frame of the picture, and how once
upon a time the light caressed a surface. Faraway, so close.
Text by Maarten Dings
Bieke Depoorter (born 1986) received her master’s degree in photography from
the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK) in Ghent in 2009. She works mostly on
autonomous projects. In 2009, she travelled through Russia, photographing
people in whose homes she had spent a single night for her series Ou Menya,
which won several prizes, including the Magnum Expression Award, and led to a
book, published in 2011. Currently Bieke is publishing her second book: I Am
About to Call it a Day, a similar long-term project in the United States. She
continues working on In Between (In Egypt). Bieke is now an associate member
at Magnum Photos.