Rineke Dijkstra: A Retrospective

The Guggenheim has an extensive exhibit of  Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs and video work.  I love her work, the subtleness, the painterly quality, intimacy, dignity and details of the images.  She has several series of images shot of the same people over many years or through major life transitions, like entering the Foreign Legion, being a refugee, or doing your service in the Israeli army.

Here is a highlight from the Guggenhiem’s press release about the exhibit:

“Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has produced a complex body of photographic and video work that offers a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale color photographs of young, typically adolescent subjects recall 17th-century Dutch painting in their scale and visual acuity. The minimal contextual details present in her photographs and videos encourage us to focus on the exchange between photographer and subject and the relationship between viewer and viewed.

Dijkstra works in series, creating groups of photographs and videos around a specific typology or theme. In 1992, she started making portraits of adolescents posed on beaches from Hilton Head, South Carolina, to Poland and Ukraine. Shot from a low perspective, the subjects of the Beach Portraits(1992–2002), poised on the brink of adulthood, take on a monumental presence. In contemporaneous works, including portraits of new mothers after giving birth and photographs of bullfighters immediately after leaving the ring, Dijkstra sought subjects whose physical exhaustion diminished the likelihood of an artificial pose.”

This is a stunning exhibit of Rineke Dijkstra’s work, with over 70 photographs and five video installations  spread out over multiple floors.    It is an exhibit to be savored.

Rineke Dijkstra

Beach Portraits

Beach Portraits

“What I like about photography is that it is always a direct response to reality.  I like to photograph people: the camera is a way to connect with people and to find out who they are and how I relate to them.  In the end it’s all about recognition and reflection.”  Rineke Dijkstra in the exhibition catalog.

Rineke Dijkstra

Self Portrait, Marnixbad, Amsterdam, Netherlands, June 19, 1991

In an interview with Kyle Chayka from Blouin Artinfo, Rineke talked about her self portrait:

“I was working for magazines and newspapers, and at a certain point I felt that I was an artist… I felt more like an art photographer. I thought maybe I should take a couple months off to think about a project for myself. The last day of the two months that I gave myself to think about everything, I broke my hip in a bike accident. So then I had a lot of time to think [laughs].

And I think that that moment I realized how vulnerable you could be, that something can just happen. My whole perspective changed. I had to recover, and I was really afraid… The doctor said, “well, maybe your hip is going to die, and you’ll need a hip replacement.” I didn’t want that to happen. And they told me the only thing I can do is swim every day. Exercise, exercise, exercise! So that’s why I started to swim every day. And then one day I came out of the swimming pool and looked in the mirror and I took my goggles off, and it looked like I was crying. I thought, maybe I should make a self-portrait. I wanted to capture a moment you don’t normally think about.”

Vondelpark, Amsterdam, June 19, 2005

The exhibit runs through October 8th.


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