Rineke Dijkstra

Sittard NL 1959, lives/works in Amsterdam

Rineke Dijkstra acquired international fame thanks to her impressive portrait series. In the early 1990s she began with work on the series of Beach Portraits - austere, frontal shots of young people on beaches in the United States, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Gabon and the Ukraine (the former Soviet Union). In this series Dijkstra concentrated on the moment that a pose just begins to form, or is just being abandoned. Hesitancy and uncertainty are visible in the bearing and glance and refer to the existential loneliness of adolescents. The surroundings, limited only through the framing, the somewhat low camera angle and the use of a fill-in flash sharpen the often strongly culturally defined details and reinforce the monumental character of the images.

In several series done around the mid-1990s Rineke Dijkstra began to focus on the visualisation of intensified emotional states. She photographed new mothers immediately after delivery with their babies pressed against them, revealing and moving images of mother’s love that leave every saccharine association with motherhood far behind them. She recorded bullfighters in Portugal, after an appearance in the arena, tired, proud, fulfilled and sometimes surprised or wounded. In England she did portraits of vulnerable students and very young girls, sexily tarted up for an evening out at the disco. Through her approach, unsparing but at the same time somewhat distanced and thus respectful, in these series Dijkstra was able to bridge the gap between the personal and the universal. At the same time, she was investigating the boundaries of the portrait. The people she photographs often bear a name, but equally represent a group, a phenomenon which transcends the purely individual. In this sense she is both a disciple of Diane Arbus, with her strongly confrontational, revealing human images, and of August Sander, who catalogued German society in types, chiefly during the interwar period.

text by courtesy of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam