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RINEKE DIJKSTRA


_ biography _ interwiev _ portfolio


Rineke Dijkstra photographer

presentation, life, gait Rineke Dijkstra born 2 June 1959 in Sittard, is a Dutch photographer. She lives and works in Amsterdam.Dijkstra concentrates on single portraits, and usually works in series, looking at groups such as adolescents, clubbers, and soldiers, from the Beach Portraits of 1992 and on, to the video installation Buzzclub/Mysteryworld (1996-1997), Tiergarten Series (1998-2000), Israeli soldiers (1999-2000), and the single-subject portraits in serial transition: Almerisa (1994-2005), Shany (20012003), Olivier (2000-2003), and Park Portraits (20052006). Her subjects are often shown standing, facing the camera, against a minimal background. This compositional style is perhaps most notable in her beach portraits, which generally feature one or more adolescents against a seascape. This style is again seen in her studies of women who have just given birth. Dijkstra dates her artistic awakening to a 1991 self-portrait. Taken with a 4-by-5-inch camera after she had emerged from a swimming pool. Commissioned by a Dutch newspaper to make photographs based on the notion of summertime, she then took photographs of adolescent bathers.This project resulted in Beach Portraits (1992– 94), a series of full-length, nearly life-size color photographs of teenagers and slightly younger children taken at ocean’s edge in the United States, Poland, Britain, Ukraine, and Croatia.


Rineke Dijkstra’s work has provoked its share of frustrating assessments, typical of which are the following: “Dijkstra is a very gentle person.” “Dijkstra finds all the people she photographs beautiful.” “She was touched. . .” “Struck by the classical proportions of the face of this girl, Dijkstra knew immediately that she wanted to photograph her.” The photographer’s own remarks have done little to lessen the tide: “I have a preference for introverted people because I feel an affinity for them.” “It’s about a particular kind of beauty that other people might find ugly, but it’s a kind of ugliness that I find beautiful.” And the nearly unbearable coup de grâce, “I really lost my heart to the whole atmosphere.”


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Skimming over the reams of such writing that’s been produced in the last decade, it’s easy to cherry-pick certain recurring words, including “gentle,” “humane,” “empathetic,” “special,” “compassion,” “beauty,” “connectedness,” “sympathies,” and “moments.” There is the ongoing caricature of Dijkstra as a nervous girl trapped in a woman’s body, searching for her lost self in the face of adolescent longing, no more helpful to our understanding of the photographs even for being perhaps her own true (and often stated) disposition. What makes all of this so frustrating is that it does nothing to explain how someone so seemingly mawkish is producing some of the sharpest and least sentimental portraits in the world right now. Dijkstra enjoys immense popularity in worldwide art markets and institutions, and justifiably so, though a deeper perspective of her importance isn’t likely to be drawn from the terms in which her work is most commonly couched. If not then by their value as humanist documents, how else can we come to understand images that appear to be portraits, but that so consistently withhold any of the traditional inferences of the genre? “What I really like about photography is that it’s about looking.”


The series that most typifies Dijkstra’s approach and brings its conflicts into boldest relief is also the one that launched her career. The Bathers series was the first suite of photographs she made in an attempt to get beyond the trappings of her work as a commercial photographer. Having spent years in the highly controlled context of corporate portraiture, she set out to re-establish for herself the meanings that one person’s photographic observation of another can afford. She did so by making summer trips to beaches in the United States, as well as Eastern, where she produced about two dozen images of adolescents and young teens transposed against a blank slate of surf and sky. Sounds simple enough, and it is, even devilishly so, because no critic or curator has yet written of them as only just that, as distillations of bald and almost stultifying flatness. Instead (and at times with the photographer’s unfortunate corroboration), there’s been an effluence of lyrical description and comparisons with historical painting, a kind of leaden haze obscuring the rawness that constitutes their originality. There is a pervasive tendency to claim that Dijkstra’s greatest work is that which most readily evokes classical models, as if photography has any more need to justify itself than do the awkward and unfinished facts of the lives it depicts. The images from Bathers, as prime examples of what’s most essential and powerful about Dijkstra’s work, propose a new form of portraiture that is neither overly mannered in the traditional mode nor so emptied of humanity as to be meaningless. Their brute plainness challenges our ability to look at them, to only look, without the additional armatures of context or concept. The very quality that unnerves and misleads so many viewers—the apparent vacuity that can push you to exasperation—is their stealthy strength. They feel moronic in the best way possible: purposefully and intelligently so. Counter to the predominant lavender view, Dijkstra’s work could well be considered the cornerstone of this bleak but affirmative strike for photography’s future.


The environments in the Bathers images are recognizable, but only generically. Dijkstra records the location and date of the photographic act, but not the name of the person who exists as its ostensible subject. She uses a large-format negative and electronic flash lighting to provide the maximum possible registration of detail and sharpness, but never manipulates that information to imply any message or understanding. All of this goes to isolate the paradox of portraiture, of photography overall, and of the human experience they both attempt to approach: that a surfeit of facts is no guarantee of knowledge. She gives us more than we ask for to prove that all bets are off, and no desperate clinging to historical compass points will provide adequate orientation. Much is often made of the difference in dress (such as it is) shown in the pictures between bathers from the United States and Eastern Europe, and of the self-consciousness of their poses or the lack of it. These are attempts at the same kind of exegesis that hangs over the historical examples of photographic portraiture that Dijkstra smashes through, and couldn’t have less relevance here. (Should I mention that Diane Arbus is not only the photographer with whom Dijkstra is most often compared, but also the one whom she herself most often cites as an influence? Thus admitted, will you see past it? How much more plainly can the central challenge inherent to approaching Dijkstra’s work be stated: Can you only just look?)


SABINE MIRLESSE Do you remember the first «good photo» you ever you took? RINEKE DIJKSTRA Yes. It was a long time ago. I think it was in 1980, before I went to art school. I was studying to become an art teacher, and I had only recently discovered photography. I wanted to photograph people but I had always been very shy and found it very difficult. So I was doing a photography course, and I went to Rome with my school for a weeklong excursion, and my photography teacher suggested I take that opportunity to focus on what I really wanted to do. The first pictures I took of people were always taken from the back; I was too shy to ask them. This time in Rome was the first time I took pictures from the front... and I think there were some good ones. MIRLESSE What at this time got you interested in photography? DIJKSTRA What I really like about photography is that it’s about looking. In those early days I was working with a 35mm camera, and I liked keeping it in front of my eye and looking at the world through a frame. It meant I was able to isolate things from their context. The frame created another world. MIRLESSE Who has made a significant impact on your work?

DIJKSTRA When I was an art student there were a few big influences, but the very first was Bruce Davidson. He was my first favorite photographer: East 100th street (1966–1968); beautiful black and whites. He was such a humanist. Then there was Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and then some of those French photographers, of course. I really liked Doisneau. Later on I discovered Diane Arbus—in 1983 or so. And then, after that, I discovered August Sander around 1994. He is one of my favorite photographers now. MIRLESSE Richard Avedon and Irving Penn are both well known for their fashion work-was that part of their appeal for you? DIJKSTRA No, I was more interested in the people and in the portraits. I was always into portraits from the very beginning.


MIRLESSE How does the Dutch landscape and the tradition of Dutch work on landscape affect your image? DIJKSTRA I’m very much into landscape. I often go to a hotel in Corsica that I like a lot. I always go to the same spot. It has a view that is very beautiful. For photography I can be anywhere-I make a lot of work in Liverpool for example. What I like about Liverpool is the scale. It’s not too big and not too small. New York has almost too much going on and I feel intimidated. MIRLESSE Did you grow up learning about Dutch painting? How do those painterly conventions impress upon your images? DIJKSTRA When I was studying there was photography and there was art, but photography was not considered art. So at the art school the photography department was an island. We ourselves were not very concerned with whether it was art or not art. It was a world on its own.

Writing in the catalogue for Rineke Dijkstra’s retrospective, which she co-organized, SF MOMA senior curator of photography

INTERVIEWS JUL. 13, 2012 by Sabine Mirlesse

MIRLESSE This is at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie? DIJKSTRA Yes. Now of course it’s completely different. I never thought I was into old paintings either, but if you go to the Rijksmuseum and you see what they use there in terms of lightit becomes clear that light has certainly always been an issue here in the Netherlands. Living here, the landscape is so flat, so you always see a lot of sky. There is always loads and loads of sky here. MIRLESSE You had a European retrospective five years ago. How does the experience of summing up your career so far impact the way you consider making new work? DIJKSTRA In a way it helps. You see everything together and you look at it all with some distance. You can see what else you’d like to add. I never want to repeat myself. MIRLESSE For the Guggenheim and SFMOMA, how did you and the curators go about selecting what goes in and what doesn’t? DIJKSTRA It’s very simple, it’s everything! There are a couple things I didn’t include-a selection was made from each of the series. For instance, we could only include a few portraits from «Mothers» series (1994). MIRLESSE Is perfectionism necessary for a photographer? DIJKSTRA I want it to be perfect.


Exhibitions 2013 Rineke Dijkstra: The Krazy House, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (Main), Germany 2012 Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective (cat.), SFMOMA, San Francisco; traveling to, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA 2012 Seduced by Art; Photography Past & Present, The National Gallery, London, UK 2012 Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Seattle Art Museum, USA 2012 Face to Face, Istanbul Modern, Istanbul, Turkey 2012 Nothing in the World But Youth, Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK 2012 Parelen, in de kunst, natuur en dans, Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, The Netherlands 2012 Through an open window – Contemporary Art of the

Rabo Art Collection, Institute Néerlandais, Paris, France 2012 Viewpoint. A Closer Look at Showing, Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2012 Look!Ed!, Galerie Annet Gelink, Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2012 Decade: 2002–2012, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA 2012 Passing Time, The Salina Art Center in Salina, Kansas, USA 2012 Naar Zee. De Zee in de Nederlandse kunst sinds 1850, De Hallen, Haarlem, The Netherlands 2011 Museum De Pont, Tilburg, The Netherlands 2011 Rineke Dijkstra/ Claude Lorrain, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, The Netherlands 2011 The Weeping Woman, Tate Liverpool, UK 2011 Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden

2011 Annemiek, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, USA 2010 The Krazy House, De Hallen, Haarlem, The Netherlands 2010 Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris, France 2010 The Weeping Woman, Galerie Jan Mot, Brussels, Belgium 2010 Rineke Dijkstra: I See a Woman Crying, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK 2010 Liverpool, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, Germany 2009 Park Portraits, La Fabrica, Madrid, Spain 2008 PUBERTY, Haugar Vestfold Kunstmuseum, Tonsberg, Norway 2008 Presumed Innnocence: Photographic Perspectives of Children, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA 2007 Return to Cezanne, Collection Lambert, Avignon, France

2007 Schmerz, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum for Gegenwart, Berlin, Germany 2006 Eine Frage (nach) der Geste, Hochschule fur Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany 2005 Portraits (cat.), Fotomuseum Winterthur, Winterthur; Fundació la Caixa, Barcelona; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterda, The Netherlands 2005 Sujeto, MUSAC - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, León, Spain (solo) 2004 Emotion Eins Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 2004 Faces, Places,Traces: New Acquisitions of the Photographs Collection The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa 2004 Historias, Photo Espagna,Real Jardin Botanico, Madrid, Spain


2004 Je t’envisage. La Disparition du Portrait, Musée de L‚Elysée, Lausanne, France

2003 Foto Biennale Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2002 Fotodocs, Museum Bojmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2004 Light and Atmosphere, Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL

2003 Imagine, you are standing here in front of me (Caldic Collection), Museum Boljmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands

2002 Lila, weiß und andere Farben, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, Germany

2004 Lonely Planet, Contemporary Art Center, Mito, Japan 2004 Monument to Now, The Dakis Joannou Collection, Desta Foundation, Athens, Greece 2004 Uproar of Emotions, The Braunsweich Museum of Photography, Braunsweich 2004 Roots, Amsterdams Centrum voor Fotografie, Amsterdam 2004 Secrets of the 90s. Keuze uit de Collectie van het Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Netherlands 2004 Strange days, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL 2003 Die Realität der Bilder - Zeitgenössische Kunst aus den Niederlanden, K

2003 The Buzzclub, Liverpool, UK / Mysteryworld, Zaandam, NL, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf 2003 Die Realität der Bilder - Zeitgenössische Kunst aus den Niederlanden, Stadtgalerie Kiel, Kiel, Germany 2003 Foto Biennale Rotterdam, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, Netherlands 2003 Imagine, you are standing here in front of me (Caldic Collection), Museum Boljmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands 2002 L’Herbier & le Nuage, Musé des Arts Contemporains grand Hornu, Hornu, Belgium

2002 Rineke Dijkstra en Julika Rudelius: Jong, De Beeldbank, Eindhoven 2002 On the waterfront: mode - beeldende kunst - vormgeving, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Schiedam, Netherlands

2002 Moving Pictures, Guggenheim, New York, NY 2002 Remix, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK 2002 Walk Around Time: Selection from the permanent Collection, Walker Art Center, MInneapolis 2002 De Groote Hoop (from the low Countries), Fries Museum Leeuwarden 2002 The Beach, The Gallery at Windsor, Vero Beach, Florida

2002 Maskers af !, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2002 Performing Bodys, Moderna Musset, Stockholm

2002 Dr Grote Hoop: Nederlandse Kunst 1960 - 2003, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Schiedam, Netherlands

2002 L’Herbier & le Nuage, Musé des Arts Contemporains grand Hornu, Hornu, Belgium

2002 Lost Past 2001-1914, Parcours tentoonstelling, Leper, 2002 Spread in Prato, curated by Pier Luigi Tazzi, Dryphoto arte contemporanea, Prato, Italy

2002 Fotodocs, Museum Bojmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands 2002 Lila, weiß und andere Farben, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2002 Rineke Dijkstra Jong, De Beeldbank, Eindhoven, Germany


Self-Portrait, Marnixbad Amsterdam, 1991 61.91 cm x 52.07 cm


Kolobrzeg, Poland July 26 1992 Colour print 190 x 156 cm


Hilton Head Island, S. C., USA June 24 1992 Colour print 190 x 156 cm

Odessa, Ukraine August 4 1993 Colour print 190 x 156 cm


Dubrovnik, Croatia July 13 1996 Colour print 190 x 156 cm


Hilton Head Island, S.C., USA June 24, 1992 Colour print 190 x 156 cm


Jalta, Oekra誰ne July 30, 1993 Colour print 190 x 156 cm


Vondelpark June 10, 2005 Colour print 152 x 178 cm


Amoy Botanical Garden, Xiamen April 23,2006 Colour print 152 x 178 cm


Vondelpark Mai 12, 2006 Colour print 152 x 178 cm

Josaphat Park, Bruxelles August 31, 2005 Colour print 152 x 178 cm


Vondelpark June 19, 2005 Colour print 152 x 178 cm


Parque de la Ciudadela June 4, 2005 Colour print 152 x 178 cm


Montemor, Portugal May 1, 1994 34.93 cm x 27.31 cm


Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal May 8, 1994 90 x 72 cm


Olivier, Marseille July 21, 2000 126 x 107 cm

Olivier, Marseille July 21, 2000 61.9 x 52.1 cm


Olivier, Marseille Novembre 30, 2000 126 x 107 cm

Olivier, Les Guerses November 1,2000 126 x 107 cm


Olivier, Djibouti July 13, 2003 126 x 107 cm

Olivier, Corsica June 18, 2001 126 x 107 cm

Olivier, Gabon June 2, 2002 126 x 107 cm


Shany, Israel March 6, 2002 126 x 107 cm

Shany, Israel August 1, 2003 126 x 107 cm


Liverpool, UK 2009 5 channel HD video-installation approxim. 32 minutes


Liverpool January 19, 2009 96,4 x 75 cm

Liverpool December 23, 2008 96,4 x 75 cm


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Rineke Dijkstra 4.02.2014


Rineke Dijkstra