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.
Exhibition ‘Rineke Dijkstra’
De Pont Museum, Tilburg
10 March until 22 July, 2018
Photos Installation views: Peter Cox