A man standing in a room with walls covered in photographs.

Bieke Depoorter, "USA. Portland, May 2015," from the project Finding Michael

Bieke Depoorter

Larry Sultan Photography Award, 2018

A portrait of a person.

While at Headlands

While at Headlands, I would like to continue my attempt to understand the life and disappearance of Michael, a man I met in Portland, Oregon in May 2015. In our first short interactions, Michael gave me two suitcases full of writings, handmade scrapbooks, and more, and then sent me a third suitcase when I arrived back home. In that third suitcase, I found a letter in which he asked for my help. I decided to return to Portland to see him again—he has no phone or internet—but when I got there, he was gone. No one had seen him since May 2015.

I will also bring work that I have already made to reflect on, and hope that my time in Headlands can help me with that.

Artist Statement

I often photograph at night. I often photograph in people’s homes. It’s an impossibility, as I must be present to capture it, but I like to photograph what the world looks when no one is watching.

The relationships I establish with my subjects are the foundation of my artistic practice. But recent works have been the product of me questioning my previous use of the medium. For example, In As it May Be, I became more and more aware of my position as an outsider in Egypt, and decided to go back and ask locals to reflect about my photographs by writing their thoughts directly onto them. In Sète#15 and the short film Dvalemodus, I began to conceive my subjects as actors, projecting my own narratives onto factual environments. This method is used as a solution for the increasing uncomfortable feeling of seeing the people I photograph as objects.

In my recent projects, such as Agata—a young woman I met in a striptease bar in Paris—I work even more collaboratively with my subjects. The resulting stories are always partially mine, partially theirs.