Desiree Dolron

BIOGRAPHY

1963-

Desiree Dolron is well-known both for her penetrating travel reportages and for her staged photographs. Dolron’s photographs portray a variety of styles and subjects, including documentary images, still lives, portraits and architectural photography. She is internationally reputed to be one of the most successful Dutch photographers in the world today.


Over the 1991-1999 period, Desiree Dolron took documentary photographs of religious rites in countries as far apart as India, Thailand, Morocco and the Philippines. In 2000 these were published as a collection in a book entitled Exaltation: Images of Religion and Death. In 2002 Dolron produced an extremely atmospheric reportage on Cuba. Although Dolron does not deliberately ignore current events in the communities she visits, her photographs cannot be described as journalistic. Her reportages are not continuous narratives, but strings of discrete moments selected for their power of expression and atmosphere. Both in her monochrome photographs (low-contrast, soft in focus and printed in sepia tones) and in her color pictures (the tonality of which is just slightly non-standard) Dolron harks back to the pictorialism of the early 20th century. This gives her work a painterly quality and aura.


In her Xteriors series (2001 – the present), Dolron reveals her devotion to art history by giving her anonymous models a hint of a resemblance to the works of the Flemish Primitives and Johannes Vermeer. In images which, thanks to her control of light and subtle digital manipulations, hardly look like photographs at all, she produces a masterly approximation of the serenity and sense of mystery with which these painters imbued their work. Xteriors, is based on the story ‘Buitenkanten’ ("exteriors" in Dutch), which Dolron wrote as a young girl. The series is also based on the artist’s love for Portrait of a Young Woman by Petrus Christus (1410-1473) and the stylistic work of Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916), who painted women from behind in various interiors. All of the models have read her story, to get into their role and get acquainted with the location, a country house called Oud Amelisweerd, situated near Utrecht and dating from the 18th century. In preparation, Dolron wandered through the house for days. After photographing the sketchy outlines and tenuously setting the scene, she was ready to fill in the blanks. One image from the Xteriors series could be composed of up to twenty negatives, requiring extremely long exposure times, and taking Dolron sometimes two years to complete a single work.


Dolron’s work is in the collection of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.