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Rineke DijkstraReview - Rineke Dijkstra
Portraits
by Rineke Dijkstra
Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Apr 18th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 16)

This nicely produced book was published to accompany an exhibition of the work of photographer and videographer Rineke Dijkstra at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in 2001.  It has only 111 pages, and only about a half of those feature pictures of Dijkstra’s work.  It also contains an essay by Katy Siegal and an interview with the artist by Jessica Morgan, both of which are accessible and informative.

            The aim of this book is to provide a representative body of the artist’s work for US audiences.  Dijkstra was born in 1959 and lives in Amsterdam.  She had her first exhibition in 1984, and she has exhibited her work all over Europe and the US.  The subjects of her pictures are from England, Portugal, South Carolina, Poland, New York, Belgium, Ukraine, Croatia, and the Netherlands.  Mostly she takes pictures of young people.  There are four series in the book: Bathers, Almerisa, New Mothers, and Videostills. 

            The “Bathers” series is the most striking of the four.  The camera is low, looking up at the subjects.  Most of them are framed on their own, although there are several small groups of two or three.  Most of them are in their teens.  They stare into the camera with a mixture of alarm, confidence, and awkwardness.  Standing in their swimwear, they look vulnerable and are beautiful despite their attempts to be fashionable.  Their clothes and hairstyles are the only clues that provide a context to help the viewer.  The essay and the interview are eloquent about the meaning of these images.

            Dijkstra’s pictures of young mothers are also powerful; two of them are used for the front and back covers.  Their faces combine the freshness of adolescence with the weariness and pain of the experience of giving birth. In contrast to the sleek perfection of the bodies in the Bathers series, these mothers, some holding their new babies, have bodies that have gone through a great deal. 

            These images don’t glamorize youth, nor do they pretend to show some awful reality behind popular portrayals of teen life.   There’s no obvious agenda in these pictures, but Dijkstra has an obvious empathy for the young people she photographs.  Despite giving only a small selection of the artist’s work, this is an impressive collection. 

© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


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