Bieke Depoorter: Agata
Des Palais, 2021
In October 2017 Belgian Magnum photographer Bieke Depoorter met Agata in a strip club in Paris. Over the next three years, the women dove deep into a collaboration, creating a small alternative universe that served as a container for them to explore questions they each had regarding identity, performance, and representation: Who is the true author of these images? Who is the true subject? Who is Agata? Who is Agata when being photographed? Who is Bieke? Who is Bieke when making photographs? Why make these pictures? What are the motives and motivations? Who is responsible for what?
The book tells both the story of a young woman using a photographer to find some sense of identity, and the story of a photographer using a young woman to better understand photographic authorship and herself. These intertwined narratives are threaded via a combination of images, letters, and notes, but what defines the dialogue is the ever-present reflex of self-awareness and self-reflection. The result is a project that never lands on any sort of conclusive truth, instead highlighting the slippery nature of truth in situations where power, responsibility, and control are in a constant state of flux.
As a whole, Agata is a project that asks more questions than it offers answers, first recognizing the well-worn idea of photographer-as-witness as a relative impossibility, then throwing all players involved under the microscope: photographer, subject, audience, and, of course, the medium itself.