Wijnanda Deroo

September 23 — November 13, 2004


Ken Johnson of The New York Times suggests that Wijnanda Deroo's photographs have a "curious, searching quality... as though she were a detective." She travels extensively, exploring unfamiliar places and documenting, with detachment, what she finds: hotels, cafes, mobile homes, courtyards, and factories are among her subjects. Deroo uses her camera as a tool to gather clues to a mystery: what shared humanity is imprinted upon the environments where we live and work, and what can these places tell us about ourselves?

The absence of people in Deroo's images "points to a secret, to something hidden beyond what is visible." (Perspektief #30, Rudy Kousbroek) Yet each frame offers evidence about the missing inhabitants, even in sites that have been abandoned for decades. Her camera enters places we would not choose to go, probing private lives and forgotten spaces. A sense of geographical dislocation runs through her work; without examining the title of a piece, we cannot be sure where we are. Deroo elicits this reaction, offering no landmarks or signifiers. Deroo is well-versed in the vernacular of the commonplace—there is an echo of human presence in the unremarkable architecture and objects she photographs.

Wijnanda Deroo's work is also distinguished by a masterful sense of color, light and composition, allowing deeper themes to rise to the surface: the universality of human environments in the industrialized world, the melancholic beauty of the mundane or deserted, and unexpected links between disparate cultures. She unearths and magnifies a history of human experience and emotion that resides in the spaces where we live and work, and asks that we seek answers to the mysteries found within. Abram de Swaan summarizes the allure of Deroo's work by explaining that "these beautiful photographs become beautiful in another way, or something other than beautiful, something that is difficult to put into words, but that invites us to look again, and again."

Wijnanda Deroo has exhibited her work internationally since the early 1980s. Her photographs are included in numerous collections, including those at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City; The Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the Musée Nationale d'Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Dutch Art Foundation, Amsterdam; and the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Tel Aviv. Her work was recently featured in Blind Spot #23; other publications include Huizen (De Verbeelding Publishing, 2003) and Wijnanda Deroo: Photographs (De Verbeelding Publishing, 2002).