Dirk de Herder (1914-2003) was sometimes called ‘The last of the northern romantics’. His whole life was a quest for the poetic and aesthetic. In a long series of films, paintings, collages, boxes and books he sought to create his own flawless world. His romanticism influenced all his work – he preferred to have as little as possible to do with the society in which he lived. Inevitably, therefore, his photographs are always in black and white; colour would have been too much like painting and too close to the real world.
Dirk de Herder was born in Rotterdam. His father, Alle de Herder, was a musician and Dirk grew up in artistic circles. Initially he became a painter, but he quickly realized that photography allowed him to combine his twin passions: for observation and composition. His main contacts in the photographic world were with Brassaï, who was based in Paris but with whom he was nevertheless in direct touch, and with Henri Berssenbrugge in the Netherlands. In addition, he often associated with painters; for some time he was the favourite photographer of the CoBrA movement and as a result became closely acquainted with Karel Appel and Corneille.
Light plays a prominent role in De Herder’s ‘photographic dreams’. It is no surprise that he admired art photographers like Brassaï, André Kertész and Man Ray.