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Bieke Depoorter July 8, 2011

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Russia.

Vladivostok, Russia, 2009

Bieke Depoorter (b.1986, Belgium) graduated  from the Royal Academy of Arts in Ghent in 2009 with a Masters degree in photography. She mainly works on personal projects, in which she looks for the intimacy of families where she’s part of for one night. In 2009, she traveled through Russia for her project «Oe menia» (With me), which won the Magnum Expression Award. In Autumn 2011, she will publish her first book with Lannoo (The Netherlands) and the designers Mevis and Van Deurisen.

About the Photograph:

“I took this picture during my second trip through Russia in the winter of 2008/2009. I met the woman a few days before, in the train, on my way to Vladivostok. We managed to meet again when I crossed her little village. As always, she didn’t speak English and I didn’t understand Russian but the moments with her were very quiet, intense and powerful.  I spend the night on her coach in her small old house. We watched pictures from the past and she invited me for a walk in her neighborhood. It was dark and freezing cold. We had to walk arm in arm because of the ice. She gave me one of her old bags to put my camera in, to protect me against thief’s.  In a little cold cafe that looked down over a frozen lake where some people where doing slipping tricks with their cars, we drank tea and walked back home.  Back in the warm house, she gave me a flowered pajama, watched the Russian The bold and the Beautiful and went to sleep.”

“I am looking for a place to spend the night. Do you know people who would have a bed, or a couch? I don’t need anything in particular, and I have a sleeping-bag. I prefer not to stay in a hotel, because I don’t have a lot of money and because I want to see the way people live in Russia. Could I stay at your place, perhaps? Thank you very much for your help! For three periods of one month, I have let the Trans-Siberian train guide me alongside forgotten villages, from living room to living room. Some Russian words, scribbled on a little piece of paper, allowed me to be welcomed and absorbed in the warm chaos of a family. Accidental encounters led me to the places where I could sleep. The living room, the epicenter of their life, establishes an intimate contact between the Russian inhabitants. In this room, they sleep, eat, drink, cry… Here everything happens. For a brief moment, I was part of this. Their couch became my bed for one night. This way, I experienced transient, but very powerful, shared moments.”