Plan your visit
  • From: 17 january 2020
  • Through: 23 august 2020
  • Location: Museum de Fundatie


Insomnia showcases a photo-series by Annabel Oosteweeghel (b. 1969). It reveals the dark and secret world experienced by the 20 per cent of the Dutch population who remain awake at night, when the majority of us are fast asleep. The photo-series confronts us with their lonely nocturnal tossing and turning.Annabel Oosteweeghel, Joris, from the series Insomnia, photo, 60 x 45 cm.Annabel Oosteweeghel, John, from the series Insomnia, photo, 45 x 60 cm.

Insomnia is about sleeplessness and what it does to those who suffer from it. What’s 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. Oosteweeghel’s photo-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.

“The physio gave me exercises - like imagining myself floating on a calm sea - but I’ve given up on them. I just can’t focus my mind on anything else.” Julia Akkerhuis (16)

Annabel Oosteweeghel, Marjon, from the series Insomnia, photo, 45 x 60 cm.

Annabel Oosteweeghel, David, from the series Insomnia, photo, 45 x 60 cm.

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 by her.

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.

Soundscape Insomnia
The music at the exhibition is by Stijn Hosman and Zeger de Vos, who worked in the tranquillity of the night to integrate its unique rhythm and mood into the process of composition. Magnifying and distorting specific elements of sounds and working with elongated musical structures, they were able to emphasise the emptiness and unease associated with insomnia.

Zeger de Vos is a composer and sound artist from Amsterdam. Using lost and modern techniques, he creates sublime virtual soundscapes full of nostalgia and wonder. Taking his inspiration from abstract painting, De Vos works with a palette of textures from field recordings and complex coloured layers of electronic and acoustic instrumentation. The sound design and musical structure are based on algorithms, which often makes for an organic, meditative, contemplative experience.

Stijn Hosman is an Amsterdam-based composer and music producer. He combines acoustic instrumentation and modern sounds with influences from electronic, experimental and contemporary classical music. Besides recording his own albums, he also makes music for film, television and installations. His 2019 release Igneous, with electronic duo Polynation, received a four-star review in both the NRC and Volkskrant newspapers and he recently composed music for Naturalis museum.

Annabel Oosteweeghel, Michelle, from the series Insomnia, photo, 45 x 60 cm.

Portrait Annabel Oosteweeghel, photo: Monica Stuurop.

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.

Photo header: Annabel Oosteweeghel, Julia, from the series Insomnia, photo, 45 x 60 cm.

  • From: 17 Jan 2020
  • Through: 23 Aug 2020
  • Location: Museum de Fundatie