Bert Teunissen, "Ruurlo #1", 1999, Giclee, 19x39", edition 2/6.

Bert Teunissen, “Ruurlo #1″, 1999, Giclee, 19×39”, edition 2/6.

Bert Teunissen

Domestic Landscapes

This series is a search for a certain kind of light and atmosphere that I knew as a little boy. The house in which I was born and grew up in was demolished when I was nine years old because my parents, who owned a clothing shop, needed a larger workspace and a more modern house to live in. In spite of my young age, I felt very bad about leaving the old place. I loved that house and still remember every corner, step, and room in it. More, I can still remember the light that came with every room and space, and the atmosphere belonging to that specific light.

I can also remember the lost feeling I had six months later after we had moved into our new house and we each had our new rooms.  The old atmosphere was completely gone, including the smell. Don’t forget the smell! If only I could photograph the smell. And then of course there is the ambient noise that tells you what you cannot see: where the door or window is, where other people are, where the street is located, or the stable with cattle. As a photographer I have only the light, but when the light is right, it can bring back that smell, and sometimes also the sound.

For me the past is a matter of telling myself this is where I came from and this is how I became the person I am today. I’m going back to my roots, photographing while it is still here, so my children can see it when they are grown up, when it will almost certainly be gone. I know it will disappear, not only because of architectural changes (reason #1) but also because of changes in society and opinions about life and how to live it.

Bert’s photographs were made in the region he comes from in the Netherlands and the south of France. One of his images shows a family who has lived their entire lives in a little farmhouse. The government decided the house needed to be torn down. The way these people were is how they became: they decided at one time in their lives that the situation they lived in was good and that it should stay that way. Luckily for them, they were able to stay themselves, to be true to themselves.

For the artist, his subjects are living relics of a simpler time and he defends their authenticity and the verity of their environment. He admires his subjects for their steadfast ability to resist change or societal temptation and to live the life they want to live.

You could say that Domestic Landscapes is a binary story. On the one hand it is about light and atmosphere, on the other hand it is about authenticity. I think this is a story largely about me: becoming more and more myself, after a long period of wandering in a world I have encountered, but which isn’t really mine.


Bert Teunissen was born in 1959 in Holland where he lives and works. His work has been widely exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe. His first New York City show was at Gallery 24 in the fall of 2000 and a portfolio of his work was published in the fall 2000 issue of Aperture magazine.