Rineke Dijkstra

retrospective

10 Mar - 22 July 2018
work in collection

Rineke Dijkstra (Sittart 1959) became internationally known with her Beach Portraits during the 1990s. With this moving series of photographs, she established her reputation as a maker of portraits that express the identity, vulnerability and dignity of the subjects. Last year she was granted the Hasselblad Award, a prestigious photography prize.

Dijkstra prefers to work in series, which allow the differences and similarities among the portrait subjects and their cultural backgrounds to emerge in a subtle manner. The time-consuming process of working with a technical camera determines her approach. She creates the conditions and plays with the light, which appears to be natural and yet has a slightly different appearance. She chooses her figures carefully, but chance plays a significant role as well. The sharply focused photographs give the viewer a sense of being face to face with the portrait subjects. At the same time, the serial character of the work also makes the subjects lose a certain degree of individuality. As a viewer, one mainly identifies with the universal human feelings (e.g. shyness, a lack of ease) displayed by them.
The theme of transformation keeps on surfacing in various series, such as the one in which a friendly-looking French boy evolves, in just a few years, into a stalwart soldier. But is this real, or is he playing a role?

Such questions interest Dijkstra. Despite the faithfully rendered appearance of the photograph, the portrait subject ultimately remains unfathomable and elusive. Who is hiding behind a mask, and who is showing his or her true face? This dilemma is subtly conveyed in the video of Marianna, a ten-year-old Russian ballerina who practices her dance steps in a pink studio. The cloyingly sweet surroundings and the spirited music stand in stark contrast to the stern voice of a teacher who is giving instructions off screen. With each new attempt to execute the steps perfectly, Marianna smiles as she has been conditioned to do, but gradually a certain fatigue and defiance nonetheless begin to emerge.

The exhibition has been organized in close collaboration with the Louisiana Museum in Danmark.