Wytske van Keulen

About the work

Wytske van Keulen (b. 1982 in Bergen op Zoom, Netherlands) portrays people who, for disparate reasons, live their lives
as outsiders. Her distinctive method of documenting – at once plain and empathetic – nevertheless resists the stubborn
tendency toward marginalisation, whether emanating from society or from solitude. Both movements are revealed as a
symptom of existential helplessness. On closer inspection, the position of the outsider can seldom be attributed to either
voluntary withdrawal or imposed exclusion. It is necessary to breach this dichotomy and consider the existing condition in
all its complexity and subtlety.
That is precisely what Wytske van Keulen does, with no trace of sensationalism, psychologism or caricature. On the contrary,
she consciously engages in a friendship or bond: a relationship distinguished by a remarkable equality, despite the camera’s
presence. In fact, the instrument becomes a point of contact, a shared predicament, for the photographer as well as those
portrayed. The idea that certain things are to be made visible is a mutual pact that both parties depend on. The camera,
so often merely a wedge, thus allows introspection.
The dichotomy so in need of resolution – that of withdrawal and exclusion – proves analogous to that of the photographer
and those she photographs. Her long-lasting observations of Juan (We would come to doubt everything, 2008), Andzelika
(2006) and now Saskia and Andrez (Sous cloche, 2013), demonstrate Wytske van Keulen’s sustained attempt to disrupt
the traditional balance of power between ‘researcher’ and ‘object’. This enables her to locate a kernel of dignity: a dignity
she unpretentiously uncovers, or perhaps rediscovers, in the people she observes.

Nickel van Duijvenboden, August 2013


In my work I use documentary photography to create autonomous work, focusing on narrative and a certain 'truthfulness'.
My work arises from personal encounters. I am interested in the human condition, the choices people make regarding their
personal lives and the results of these choices. Most recently I have been following people who have somehow chosen to
live as outsiders to modern society. I am fascinated by these individuals and by their reality. I mostly allow myself to
be guided by the stories of these protagonists. Afterwards, while examining and editing the collected material, my own
questions and ideas become more important. Those questions touch upon ethics and the nature of (documentary)
photography as representation.

Amsterdam, January 2012