Rineke Dijkstra, ‘Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26 1992’ 1992
Rineke Dijkstra
Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 26 1992 1992
© Rineke Dijkstra

Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra uses photography and film to portray individuals at transformative moments in their lives.

Dijkstra is particularly concerned with the representation of youth and the transition to adulthood. Her portraits bear witness to the social pressures made visible on the bodies and faces of her subjects.

Dijkstra often works in series, building upon the accumulation of detail and careful attention to minute differences in pictures taken months or years apart. In Olivier (2000–03), for example, a series of seven formal portraits follows a young man from the day he joins the French Foreign Legion to the day he graduates. The subjects of Beach Portraits (1992–2002) and New Mothers (1994) reveal much about their preoccupations and anxieties through their participation as sitters.

The poses and compositions of Dijkstra’s images suggest a complex understanding of the traditions of portraiture, particularly in Dutch painting. At the same time, her work demonstrates a reconsideration of the nature and function of the portrait in the wake of conceptual art. Her tracking of change and development across time relates to the idea of the photographic series but also reflects the complex life experiences and situations of her subjects. Balanced precariously between childhood and adulthood, or facing transformative challenges like parenthood or military service, these young people allow us to see far more of themselves than the composed and self-assured subjects of most contemporary portraiture.