Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant Finalist #4: Agnes Dherbeys

IPA Photography 9 Comments

In this article, we highlight the third finalist for the inaugural Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant. We take a look at Agnes Dherbey’s project #K76-3613, a personal journey which challenges the way photography can be used to learn about oneself, and also seeks to inquire upon the feelings of adopted children and the women who give their children up for adoption.

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Slideshow Note: As this is a new project, we are showing here one photo that marks the start of #K76-3613, followed by a showcase of Agnes’ previous work in Nepal, Tibetans in Exile, in which she captures the spirit of Rangzen, or independence for Tibet.


Agnes Dherbeys, South Korea – France

During the 70s and the 80s, South Korea exported for adoption more children than any other country. According to the Korean Authorities, 150,944 infants were put up for adoption between 1953 and 2006.

I was born in South Korea, in December 1976 and was admitted into White Lily Orphanage at 11 days old, my number was # K76-3613. In April 1977 after being placed in a foster family for 4 months, my French parents adopted me.

In this project, I hope to return to the place of my birth, to begin a photographic odyssey about return, quest and identity. My aim is not to find my biological family, but to engage myself into a visual inquiry at once lucid, rigorous yet also intimate by exploring the feelings of abandonment and adoption.

Adoption often gives (along with its benefits), a great sense of loss: confusion of one’s roots, damage of personal identity and the (symbolic) mourning for the biological parents. I today reach a point where exploring these sentiments has become a visceral emergency that I want to address photographically only.

This is a real legitimate inquiry into the feelings of the adopted and into the women who give their children up for adoption. Yet it is also a revelatory personal journey of self-discovery and identity; on the way it will challenge how I think about myself and others, but moreover how photography can actually be used to learn more about oneself.


Words from our Jury Panel:


“This project is different in the sense that I was intrigued from the moment i read the proposition. I have had a few friends here who were adopted just like Agnes so I immediately related to her story. What I like about Agnes’ work is that she is very creative in her visual language. She is combining different styles and it’s in a way like she’s searching to achieve the visual that matches the project she’s working on.


The project is one of the only ones that was so personal, about herself, the photographer. So, what we have here is a good photographer, with a variety of techniques and styles, taking on a journey of self-discovery. The distribution plan and ways of making an impact are well developed, in line with the project and that was definitely not the case with many of the other propositions.”

– Bruno De Cock, Photo Editor, Medecins Sans Frontieres International


“This project is ambitious, challenging and would be a lifetime achievement.  I’ve no doubt with her photographic skills, complete understanding and feeling for the story she could pull it off as a major contribution to photo culture and understanding the world of adoption. As this could be her ‘lifetime’ project, a project about Agnes herself, I imagine this to be produced over a much longer period of time.”

– John Novis, Head of Photography, Greenpeace International

Agnes Dherbeys

Agnes Dherbeys is based in Bangkok. She graduated with honours from the Master of Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Lyon and from Master of Sciences of Information from Celsa, Sorbonne IV. Her work is published internationally and focused on Asia.

In 2005, the Foundation Lagardere grant for photography allowed her to work on a two-year long project “East Timor, the crushed dreams of independency” – exhibited in Visa pour l’Image and in WA, Australia. She won Second Prize Spot News Story in World Press Photo 2007 with her coverage on the uprising against King Gyanendra. She was one of the 12 participants to the Joop Swart Masterclass, following the tale of 2 generations of Tibetans in exile in Nepal. Her coverage of the 2010 Red Shirts turmoil in Thailand was exhibited at the BACC-Bangkok, in RUPTURE exhibition, curated by Olivier Pin Fat. This body of work, published in the New York Times was awarded the OPC Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.

Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA) is the official media partner of the Reminders Project Asian Photographers Grant.

The winner of the grant will be announced in November during the 7th Angkor Photo Festival, held from November 19-26, 2011, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. During the festival, there will also be a special showcase of the finalists’ projects.

For more information, contact us at [email protected] or follow us on Facebook.


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Comments 9

  1. I hope Agnes Dherbeys win this contest. I cannot remember how many times I read her story & look thru’ her pics which is so touching to me. My sister & I are adopted & we knew who our biological parents are & also our brothers & sisters.

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