Rineke Dijkstra, ‘Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994’ 1994
Rineke Dijkstra
Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994 1994
© Rineke Dijkstra

Dijkstra concentrates on single portraits, and usually works in series, looking at groups such as adolescents, clubbers, and soldiers. Her subjects are shown standing, facing the camera, against a minimal background. During a visit to Portugal in 1994, she made portraits of four bullfighters immediately after the fight. In the same year, she photographed three women who had given birth, one hour (Julie), one day (Tecla) and one week (Saskia) after the event.

The raw immediacy of these images captures something of the contradictions inherent in this common and yet most singular of human experiences. The women appear at once vulnerable and invincible, traumatised and self-composed. Dijkstra draws a parallel between the two groups of photographs. Both bullfighters and mothers are pictured after an exhausting and potentially life-threatening experience, relating to society’s deepest-held ideas of masculinity and femininity.

Watch an interview with the artist