Wijnanda Deroo’s images invite the viewer to partake in the intricate relation between architecture and nature, between history and time, and between memory and place. Someone has just left the room, or maybe someone is about to enter, as though the viewer could be entering the space the images invoke. This is not necessarily the actual location of where the photograph was taken, but where our experience of place resides: in memory and dreams.
What makes these photographs so arresting is that there are no people to be seen in them. Nevertheless, these images can also be regarded as portraits, not of a bodily presence, but rather of its intimate surroundings, of the traces each and every one of us leaves in our lives: be it in transit at a hotel lobby, the mess of our personal objects at a table, or even the light we read by. Yet nostalgia is resisted; this is no Proustian evocation of the past, but a conveyance of ephemeral and deeply personal atmospheres.
One is left to ponder whether Deroo’s images capture a past, or freeze the ungraspable concept of time - leaving the possibility of future layers of human activity open to the imagination. While these are in a sense the qualities of photography that are most akin to writing, Deroo achieves a profound meditation on all of her themes by her masterful use of natural lighting and enigmatic compositions.
The French philosopher Michel de Certeau wrote that “strikingly, the places people live in are like the presences of diverse absences.” It is in this sense that Deroo seeks to move beyond the mere capturing of the past in a frame. By leaving out protagonists, the viewer is invited to imagine the history as well as possible future of the places in the photographs. It is only in the added layer of the viewer’s experience that the image becomes a place. Deroo’s photographs are like palimpsests of the very private connections we all have in relation to the places where we live our daily lives, to which we travel and where we encounter our fellow human beings.
Wijnanda Deroo (Netherlands, 1955) lives and works in New York City.