Henderson’s varied subject matter is united by an approach marked by a kind of democratic naturalism, where all phenomena is given equal attention. Although variously described as anti-heroic and anti-iconic, Henderson’s interest in the ‘ordinary’ can be deceptive and his narratives often reveal themselves to be more complex and unsteady than they first appear. There are photos of the bush. There are photos of Maori teenagers. There are bubbles, spaceships and abattoir workers. All of these are apparent in the work of Derek Henderson, but they do not define what his work is about. There is space in between these photographs, in between each frame, each dark slide, and it is this territory that Henderson chooses to mine. Suggestions of memories spark like struck flint, the brief luminescence of recognition, borne from a childhood spent looking through moving car windows. The indeterminate residue of past occupants, the closed history of an open landscape, the gaze held and the gaze fallen away. These are things we can and cannot know. Throughout Henderson’s landscapes, there appears to be a removal of self, carved clean with the clarity of distance. The uniformity of focus across the frame acts as a democratic agent, freeing the image from any pointed prescriptive reading. Yet where this lucidity aids his landscapes, Henderson employs a different approach within his portraiture, inverting the depth of field to a point where you feel it trembling, intimating the human being in flux. It is this refusal to yield information, to pin down what it is we are looking at in particular, to be dogmatic and absolute, that embodies Henderson’s work with the other, that which cannot be touched, that can only be experienced through sight, through memories summoned, edges frayed and worn.
Born 1963, Napier, New Zealand, currently divides his time between Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand.
Rosa, Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Milk Run, Hastings City Art Gallery, Te Whare Toi O Heretaunga, New Zealand; Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; Sp_ace Gallery, Napier, New Zealand.
Age of Reason, Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; Precinct 35, Wellington, New Zealand.
Are you Happy?, Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Circadian Rhythm, Spa_ce Gallery, Napier, New Zealand; Precinct 35, Wellington, New Zealand. The Adjustment, Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand; Precinct 35, Wellington, New Zealand.
Safety Glass, Spa_ce Gallery, Napier, New Zealand. The Alteration, Michael Reid Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Paradise Lost, Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand Waitoa Slaughterhouse, Wallace Trust Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
The Trees are Big and the Sky is Blue, McNamara Gallery, Whanganui, New Zealand
Mercy Mercer, Australian Centre for Photography, Melbourne, Australia; Anna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Go down to the river to prey, McNamara Gallery, Whanganui, New Zealand
The Terrible Boredom of Paradise, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, Australia; Pataka Art Gallery and Museum, Porirua, New Zealand
The Terrible Boredom of Paradise, Curator Space, London, United Kingdom; McNamara Gallery, Whanganui, New Zealand
I don’t feel alone, Gallery 2010, Sydney, Australia
Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, Gallery Wren, Sydney, Australia
Auckland Festival of Photography, Melanie Roger Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
Festival of Photography, National Gallery of Australia, Melbourne, Australia. Ruminations in the Cloisters, Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, NZ
Lay of the Land, Papakura Art Gallery, Papakura, New Zealand
Recent Auckland Photography, Pictures they want to make, Northart Gallery, Auckland, NZ
Now and Then, Te Manawa Museum, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Recent work by ten New Zealand Photographers, Tauranga Art Gallery, New Zealand
Glossy, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, Australia
Unpublished, RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
National Gallery of Victoria, Australia.
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Wallace Trust Art Collection, Auckland, New Zealand.
Postcards from Abroad, published by Bad News Books 2021
Rosa, by Simone Gooch and Derek Henderson, published by Perimeter Books 2021.
Milk Run, published by Bad News Books, 2020
Circadian Rhythm, published by Bad News Books and Precinct 35, 2017
Darkness of Noon, with Kelly Thompson, published by Pearce Press, 2013.
Mercy Mercer, published by Michael Lett, 2009.
The Terrible Boredom of Paradise, self-published, 2005.