The change demanded by tens of thousands of people in Tahrir Square more than three years ago came quickly and subsided even faster. The leader of three decades, Hosni Mubarak, finally stepped down; a democratic vote put the Muslim Brotherhood at the seat of power; and the nation’s army chief, who helped orchestrate a coup last July, resigned—only to run for president. That turmoil, along with a deadly crackdown on Islamists and attacks on the press, has made progress hard to pin down.
Bieke Depoorter, a photographer based in Ghent, Belgium, found a way to capture the often-unseen reality of a nation collapsing into its past. She would ask people on the streets of Cairo and other areas to stay a night in their homes. In each of her four several-week trips since late 2011, she would spend a few nights photographing, each time with a different family, then take a day off and repeat. She’s been to between 30 and 40 homes but denied entry from far more.
Depoorter, 27, doesn’t know Arabic, but the language barrier hasn’t proven a fault. “By not speaking, just being together, you can really get to know each other in a more thoughtful and real way,” she says. “People give me a lot and I give a lot, and it’s easier with strangers because they know I’m going away the next morning,” she adds. “It’s a very short, intense moment. It’s there and it will never come back.”
" ‘I am about to call it a day’ is a sequel on ‘Ou Menya’, a project where I entered the intimacy of families in Russia, while spending one night with them. This time, I have travelled through the United States. It is a series of portraits of places and people where I spent the night while passing through. I meet my family-for-the night on the streets. The social contact, the short and intense encounters and the mutual trust for them to take me into their most intimate privacy is an important element in my work." (Bieke Depoorter, new Magnum Photos nominee; read more)