Rineke Dijkstra is a photographer and video artist. In her work she looks for specific characteristics of individuals in group contexts. The paradox between identity and uniformity. Her subjects are often people in a transitional state. Adolescents between childhood and adulthood. She manages to convey the vulnerable side of her subjects, caught at a decisive moment of transition in their lives.
“Her work is almost like an antidote. We’re so overwhelmed by images, not only of celebrities but of people trying to posture as celebrities or self-market, that having representations where that is really not what it’s about—personally I find the images very attractive for that reason.”- Jennifer Blessing, senior photography curator at the Guggenheim Museum.
"A photograph works best when the formal aspects such as light, colour and composition, as well as the informal aspects like someone’s gaze or gesture come together. In my pictures I also look for a sense of stillness and serenity. I like it when everything is reduced to its essence. You try to get things to reach a climax. A moment of truth."
“The Buzzclub” is Rineke Dijkstra first video work, which she did in Liverpool 1996/97. It shows teenagers dancing to acid house and rave music in “The Buzzclub”. By photographing the teenagers in front of a plain background in the club, she manages to emphasize the personalities of her subjects.
“In Rineke Dijkstra’s Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA June 24 1992, a girl in an apricot bikini stands awkwardly on a South Carolina Beach against a drab grey background of beach, sea and sky.
The foreground is lit. The young woman stands on her little patch of sand. Dijkstra photographs the girl with sympathy, but despite this sympathetic portrayal, the girl looks isolated and lonely.
Her isolation is accentuated by her appearance - she’s made herself up (this picture is an appointment picture, and thinking it would be some kind of a model shoot, the girl wears layers of make up). She also sucks her stomach in - because her mother is on the sidelines telling her she looks fat. And perhaps because of this, she has a look of anxiety on her face, an expression that is almost confused.
So the girl in the apricot bikini is uncertain of where she is and who she is. She exists in a Anglo-adolescent zone of darkness. The background landscape is a series of stratas of greyness, from the beach to the sea and, punctuated only by the turbulence of rolling waves, a sky of overwhelming greyness, and that seems to be where her future lies.
In terms of technique and lighting, it is not an especially complex picture. In terms of what it shows, it is. Dijkstra uses landscape, light, body, dress and facial expression in a way that reveals something about the girl that goes beyond the photographer. She leaves the image open to interpretation and uses factors outside her control in making the portrait - the finished article is a product of circumstance and chance, and not Dijkstra’s machinations. The picture has social, psychological, sexual and cultural layers to it, it has an emotional narrative and it ties in with a photographic tradition. Everything in the picture matters. It’s an image that has stood the test of time, from a series that has stood the test of time. And though it is a famous image, and many people have attempted to copy it, nobody has come close. It’s still original and it still packs a punch.”- Colin Pantall
“Israel Portraits” was published in 2001 and shows the progress of new soldiers.
Within the series, Rineke Dijkstra portraits a young Israeli woman, Shany, from her first day in an army uniform until after she quit the army. As well Olivier from his induction into the French Foreign Legion, over the course of three years.
This self-portrait was taken after her physiotherapy in a swimming pool, after she broke her hip in a bike accident. That sparked a desire in her to photograph something different, “something that was miles away from the boring and predictable businessmen I had until then mostly photographed.”
As part of a project documenting children of refugees, Rinke Dijkstra started photographing Almerisa. Her family had relocated from Bosnian to Amsterdam.
Rinke Dijkstra continued photographing Almerisa and made eleven photographs from 1994 to 2008. The images maintain a consistent compositional format and show Almerisa’s development from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood, but also record her progression through cultural and geographic displacement.
“Beach Portraits” includes photographs, taken between 1992 and 1996 in Poland, the Ukraine, Belgium, Croatia, England and North America.
“I realized if you strip everything away, with no backgrounds and just the sea and sky and a bathing suit, it’s only about the pose and stance of people… if somebody is making a little gesture or has a ring on, you see it because there’s nothing else in the picture to look at.”- Rineke Dijkstra
Rineke Dijkstra’s photographed three young mothers after they’d given birth, without glamorizing it. One mother was photographed an hour after giving birth, another photographed one day afterwards, and the third one week later.
Don’t miss this VIDEO (I can’t embed it), where Rineke Dijkstra talks about the work.
The same year Rineke Dijkstra photographed the new mothers, she also made a series of portraits of young Portuguese Bull Fighters, which were taken immediately after they left the bullring.
“The matadors came out covered in blood and exhausted – very similar to the mothers…I did not intend to do the men like that, all macho and the women as mothers – it just evolved from the experience…women make this extreme physical effort…while the men search for it as a kind of adventure. But still, both are exhausting and life-threatening actions.”- Rineke Dijkstra
In a way, these two series support each other and reinforce stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.
Rinke Dijkstra’s The Weeping Woman, was initially inspired by the ways in which school groups discuss art works on display at Tate Liverpool.
The schoolchildren are in a serious discussion regarding the meaning of Picasso’s painting. Unlike a conventional portrait in which the subject looks at the camera, they are engaged with each other, visually disconnected from the viewer.