Last year Depoorter returned to visit the country with a first draft of her book, inviting other people to write comments directly on the photographs. The resulting publication comprises 44 images conveying the home lives of each family, embellished with a commentary. The handwritten Arabic script settles over the pictures like an additional layer, accompanying the visual narrative with statements that range from humorous comments to expressions of despair.
The volume is complemented by a 66-page booklet, in which the original handwritten notes are overlaid with the corresponding English translations. Engaging with Depoorter’s multi-layered approach yields a profound insight into her chosen subject matter. The photographer’s selection presents the viewer with an unusually rich spectrum of different mindsets and attitudes. It is astounding how, time and again, she was able to gain her subjects’ trust – which was the prerequisite for these deeply personal portraits.
Despite being an outsider – both due to her role as a photographer and as a visitor from another culture – she managed to establish a dialogue with all of her hosts. The trust the photographer received from those she encountered sets this book apart from any ordinary media coverage – turning it into an illuminating visual journey through a complex country.
Every day, ninety million Egyptians move back and forth between the reality they experience out on the streets, and the safe haven of their family homes. By highlighting this juxtaposition, as well as showing the intrusion of politics into people’s everyday lives, Depoorter’s book resembles a kaleidoscope filled with a myriad of hopes and dreams.
Bieke Depoorter: As it may be (featuring an essay by Ruth Vandewalle) 44 colour illustrations, 62 pages; includes a 66-page booklet; Arabic and English, 28 x 26.4 cm, Aperture