Derek van der Merwe
photographer, visual communicator and conceptualiser
about Derek van der Merwe

WHERE - I live, love, and breathe on the southern tip of the African continent in a country called South Africa. At age 15, still at school then, in the Northern part of Namibia, I decided to be a photographer and have been just that since then.

WHO - I served as aerial photographer during two years of performing mandatory national service at age 17 and started working as press photographer after that, realising that I could gain excellent experience in developing the ability to communicate with photographs. A total of 6 years was spent as press photographer, documenting beauty, murder, war, human failures and achievements. Because I live photography, I never limited myself to a specific genre, just like one cannot limit one self in being a human, there are simply too many interesting facets and options.

HOW - Although mastering technique and tools of the trade could qualify somebody as a photographer, I realised at a very early stage in my career it would be the easy part, all of it is written in books already, or can be studied at an institution. The key to true achievement in self expression would lie in effectively combining the medium of photography with emotion. These skills can simply not be taught by any institution, the simple reason being that there are too many variables to cover in any book or any formula.

To fully understand emotion I had to live life true to myself so I could totally understand myself so I could have a honest reference. To get people to correctly interpret what I needed them to perceive in the photos I capture for them, I needed to gain understanding of people’s emotions in general.

To be a successful visual conceptualiser I had to be be able to take a concept and interpret it into a single image that could invoke a specific feeling for the viewer. Once I mastered that I realised the power of it all, I can communicate in a universal language, the only person I could not speak to would be the blind.

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