Derek Henderson


passing through… passing by…

Dreamily, photographs taken by Derek Henderson slowly unfold to betray quietude and desolation, humanity and splendour. Deserted streets, masses of hydrangea in pink, purple and blue, long grasses, wild flowers, coastlines and never-ending roads appear and re-appear. There is a sense of the transitory, of travelling, passing through and passing-by…

Ever-roaming, Henderson collects particular pictorial moments from abroad as well as New Zealand, from Bluff to Great Barrier, Westport to Freisland, from Bondi to the Bay of Plenty to the Waikato River. Expansive exteriors encompass skies and seas, landscapes made up of wideness, water, beaches, bush, and buildings. Moments of places are captured, driftwood, train tracks, highways, riverbanks, the main streets of small towns, churches, meeting-houses, garages, farm tracks, bridges and wharves that trail off into the distance. Caravans, house-buses and cars are either parked or abandoned, trees are sometimes rich and dark, sometimes misshapen, wild and ignoble. Landscapes are marked with the traces of their inhabitants, there are gravel roads, neglected plantings, horses, makeshift fences, peeling paint, weatherboard houses, threadbare facades, faded shop signs, murals and architectural quirks. Muted and intimate, Henderson also documents the interiors of houses, community halls and curious spaces. These are sometimes spare, with bare boards and old wallpaper, sometimes they contain enigmatic coloured soap bubbles. Often they are well lived-in, poignant with presence, lovingly decorated with personal artifacts, memorabilia and house-plants. Artless portraits are also created, these are spontaneous yet composed. Subjects, often the young, appear in their natural habitats. They stare earnestly into the camera, and one is always confronted by slight challenges as well as an honesty of gaze.

A sense of wideness prevails, aided by Henderson’s use of a 4x5 large format view camera. This renders extraordinary depth and detail, placing the images firmly in a tradition of fine art photography. Henderson’s pictures are often filled with verticals; road markings, power poles, road signs and cabbage trees. There is a mixture of flatness and graphic compositions with more traditionally vast and deep-focus landscapes- suburban, rural and coastal countryside vistas and small town panoramas. There is a delicate balance between the historical and social documentary element of the subject matter and more idiosyncratic, personal observations and interpretations of environments.

Lonesome and subdued, Henderson’s photographic practice is also inquisitive, poetic and sincere. There is stillness and darkness, abandon and light… there is a play between the banal and the exceptional, emptiness and presence, a kind of pause as he makes spaces for contemplation. Above all these are images coloured by wilderness and order, fearfulness and beauty.


New Zealand born Derek Henderson (b. 1963) currently divides his time between Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. Aside from his innovative and distinct work in fashion photography, Henderson also exhibits work as part of his fine-arts practice both nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include: The Adjustment (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2017), Paradise Lost (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2015), Let's Hope They're Friendly (Melanie Roger Gallery, 2013), the trees are big and the sky is blue (McNamara Gallery, Whanganui, 2012) Still / Life (Sun Studios, Sydney, 2012), Photography (Anna Bibby Gallery, 2011), Mercy Mercer (Jen Bekman, New York, 2010) and I go down to the river to pray (ACP, Melbourne, 2008). Work by Henderson has also been the subject of two major monographs The Terrible Boredom of Paradise (2005) and Mercy Mercer (2009). He has also published a collaborative publication Darkness of Noon featuring nude photography by Henderson and illustrations by Kelly Thompson that was released in 2013. Works by Henderson are held in major private and public collections throughout New Zealand and Australia including the Wallace Trust Collection and the National Gallery of Victoria who exhibited a recently acquired suite of work in their NGV Festival of Photography in 2017.

For additional information and a complete CV please contact the gallery.

Selected Media.

    Jake Mein, Bad News Books
    Vice Video
    Melinda Williams, NZ Herald
    Thomas Chatterton Williams, Holiday, issue 377
    John Hurrell, Eyecontact review


  1. Derek Henderson | Milk Run | Hastings City Art Gallery
  2. Stockroom at Sapphire | Part of Artweek Auckland
  3. Public Programmes | Derek Henderson Artist Talk
  4. Auckland Festival of Photography
  5. Public Programmes | Derek Henderson Artist Talk
  6. Derek Henderson | Jacinda Ardern for American Vogue
  7. Derek Henderson | NGV Festival of Photography | Melbourne
  8. Derek Henderson and Peter Peryer | Ruminations in the Cloisters | Govett Brewster Gallery
  9. Derek Henderson | Lay of the Land | Papakura Art Gallery
  10. DEREK HENDERSON | Wallace Trust Art Gallery
  11. Derek Henderson | Recent Auckland Photography
  12. Derek Henderson | Darkness of Noon publication