Annabel Oosteweeghel

Annabel Oosteweeghel (b. Bussum, 1969) studied audiovisual arts at AKV St Joost in Breda. She calls her narrative photography ‘imaginary documentary,’ because the images she creates take a social issue as their starting-point but are meticulously staged and stylized.
In 2015 she published her first book: Oblivious. It earned her a place as a finalist in the LensCulture Exposure Awards and a nomination for the Dutch Photography So Award 2015. Insomnia won the 2018 European Newspaper Award for portrait photography.



This series reveals the dark and secret world experienced by the twenty percent of the Dutch population who remain awake at night when the majority of us are fast asleep.

Insomnia is about sleeplessness and what it does to those who suffer from it. What is it like to lie awake for hours while everyone else is asleep? They brood, wander around in the darkness, lie awake, get up and work, watch TV or mop the floor. This series portrays sixteen people: men and women, young and old, from all over the Netherlands and from a range of backgrounds, but all with their own unique stories. “I wanted to make a series about insomnia because a lot of people I know suffer from it. It’s a hidden world that I wanted to reveal. What does it feel like, to be so alone at night when you really want to sleep? Is the increase in insomnia related to the stress of everyday life, the daily overload of information that assails us from all directions and demands to be processed?”

“The only thing that works is to go on holiday to Curaçao or Aruba.
There it’s six hours earlier than here and I sleep well.” – Michelle Dorlandt (43)

The photos look like film stills in which the insomniacs are extras on nocturnal sets. Inspired by the work of Edward Hopper and American photographers of the 1960s, such as Larry Sultan and William Eggleston, Oosteweeghel uses strong chiaroscuro contrasts. The effect is reinforced by the way she often locates the light source outside the frame, just as the Caravaggisti did in their paintings. The scenes are disconcerting. On the one hand, the images seem familiar and the insomniacs might almost be moving about in your own home. On the other, the pictures reveal an alien world of aimless nocturnal wanderings in streets, on beaches or around parks. The aesthetics of darkness and the suffering associated with the inability to sleep go effortlessly hand in hand.

Insomnia is due to published in book form by Waanders & de Kunst. The book will include interviews by Carlijn Vis and a postface by Ralph Keuning. Its design is by Sybren Kuiper.

To view more of Annabel Oosteweeghel’s work please visit her website.