Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has been creating photographic and cinematic portraits that expose, examine, and celebrate humanity. It is a rare occurrence when one bears witness to the complexities and nuances of life epitomized in a fleeting gesture or facial expression. It is even more rare to capture these gestures or expressions on camera. Dijkstra’s work is devoted to a fascination with these possibilities found within the miracle of physical embodiment.
A simple composition remains consistent through much of Dijkstra’s work, inviting the viewer to scrutinize the expressive depth of a subject. In one of her most well-known projects, ‘Beaches’, Dijkstra photographs adolescents standing against sea and horizon. In front of this simple backdrop, a delicate singularity of the subject resounds. Individual identity is found in a loose strand of hair, the protrusion of one hip, the defiant gaze. In this series, Dijkstra captures the scramble for physical and social identity that defines adolescence.
It is this sensitivity that resonates throughout a variety of themes and subjects. Dijkstra’s remarkable ability to respectfully probe renders visible a relationship between photographer and subject that is based on consensual exposure. Dijkstra works in series, delving into one particular moment of life to reveal both the shared and inaccessible patterns of human transition. Her work is intimate and gentle, and at the same time highly investigatory and revealing.
The tool is a 4×5 field camera that produces negatives the size of postcards and images as rich and clear as life. One can get lost looking through the various series and films produced during Dijkstra’s full career. Scrolling through the inviting honesty of teenagers at a dance club, mothers holding their new children, or a little girl sketching, it is easy to fall into the mesmerized trance that seems to possess both photographer and subject.
‘Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective” runs through October 8 at the Guggenheim Museum.
The Guggenheim Museum [Exhibition Site]
Rineke Dijkstra at the Guggenheim Museum [NYTimes]
Teen Angst Gets Erotic, Philly’s People Parade: NYC Shows [Bloomberg]
The Awkward Years [WSJ]
Rineke Dijkstra at the Guggenheim [The New Yorker]