Rineke Dijkstra: beyond the pose

© Courtesy the artist and Jan Mot, Brussels
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Rineke Dijkstra always pushes the button at the right time: the moment when her subjects reveal a glimpse of vulnerability. A number of the Dutch photographer’s iconic pictures are now on show at Jan Mot.

Rineke Dijkstra’s photos of adolescents on the beach, along with her series of Portuguese bullfighters – smeared in blood – and portraits of young mothers catapulted her to stardom in the 1990s.
The Amsterdam-based photographer avoids poses but waits for the moment when the masks fall and the walls that her models build around themselves come down. Dijkstra wants emotion. The vulnerability in her images attests that she is an empathetic photographer.

With Tia, the 1994 double portrait of a young mother here on show, Dijkstra beautifully captured the complexity of human emotion. On the left, Tia stares into the lens completely exhausted, while the picture on the right was taken five months later. Having recovered from her delivery, the new mother looks straight ahead self-confidently. This is striking: if we think of Dijkstra’s work, it is discomfort and uncertainty that come to mind.

1662 Rineke Dijkstra Park Portraits 2006
© Courtesy the artist and Jan Mot, Brussels

Dijkstra’s photos are always printed on large format. This gives special importance to little details in what at a cursory glance would seem to be simple images. The red blush on the cheeks of the schoolboy in Park Portraits matches the colour of his uniform jacket perfectly. You take your time for a Dijkstra.

The photographer also takes her time. She uses a large-format camera on a tripod. But her laborious method is the tried and tested recipe for pictures in which the subjects let down their guard. Although we cannot say that Dijkstra thereby shows us the true face of her model. She consciously looks for vulnerable shyness. When she took a portrait of her friend and fellow photographer Charlotte Dumas, Dumas herself remarked: “It is more a work by her than a photo of me.”

Besides Tia, Park Portraits and a portrait of Dumas and the American artist Taryn Simon, some of her powerful images of adolescents on the beach are on show. The series Odessa, Ukraine dates from 1993 but these particular images were only shown to the general public two years ago at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Recent works are not being shown at Jan Mot, but there is nothing wrong with that. A small exhibition of photos by the master of portraiture is worth a visit in any case.


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