Rineke Dijkstra and the stories her photographs tell
We see millions of images every day. Every moment we see is a small picture that flashes through our brain and into our core. Some images rush out of our minds forever, and some will never leave us. These fleeting memory portraits can become distorted over time, turning some into facades on inflated pedestals, and unfairly demoting others. However a minority of these moments are lucky enough to be captured and shared via a photograph: tangible evidence that an isolated incident occurred in a single moment. To really take a great photograph often you have to take a large amount of bad ones. Sometimes you get lucky and click the shutter at exactly the precise second. What makes a good photograph? What takes a picture beyond a snapshot and turns it into art? I think it is one that leaves you moved, curious, shocked, or makes you look twice and wonder what the story is within that vignette.
I recently discovered Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra at an exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and was incredibly impressed by the emotions her photos portray, and the questions they leave. Every single shot tells an intense and unique story. She works in series, and often uses youths and young adults as subjects, believing their transitional life stages embody the most potential for change and growth in shorter periods of times. This was an especially unique time for me to be so blown away by a photography exhibit because I had just finished a study on a picture I had found while traveling, and had written the above paragraph just weeks before… Needless to say I looked at her work with fresh eyes, and a more inquisitive mind. Here are some photographs from a few of my favorite series, and exerts of an interview with her.
How did you come up with the idea for the ‘Beach’ series?
I broke my hip about 15 years ago and started doing self-portraits after swimming in the pool where I was doing physiotherapy. I was fascinated by capturing something unconscious and natural in a photograph, something that was miles away from the boring and predictable businessmen I had until then mostly photographed. I was interested in photographing people at moments when they had dropped all pretence of a pose. Once I began taking these pictures, I realized I would prefer to do a series because it gave me a better grip on a subject.
Another series I loved was large scale projections taken of youths dancing at clubs in the UK to their favorite music against a plain white screen. The subjects appear so vulnerable. I think it’s impossible to be anyone but yourself when dancing…. Here are some stills of the projections.
What is your aim when taking pictures?
I want to show things you might not see in normal life. I make normal things appear special. I want people to look at life in a new and different way, but it always has to be based on reality. It’s important that you don’t pass judgement, and leave space for interpretation.
She also did a series of children taken in various parks around the world. These have a whimsical and romantic edge to them that attracts me and leaves me wanting more…
What excites you most about photography?
I love being totally in the moment, when everything comes together and is just right. You actually see things clearer. But I can spend weeks in the park without ever seeing anything interesting and I never know whether it is because it simply isn’t there or because I just didn’t see it.
The last photograph I chose is a self portrait. I find it admirable that Rineke is able to portray herself with as much openness and vulnerability as she does her other subjects.
What makes one image stand out more than another?
A photograph works best when the formal aspects such as light, colour and composition, as well as the informal aspects like someone’s gaze or gesture come together. In my pictures I also look for a sense of stillness and serenity. I like it when everything is reduced to its essence. You try to get things to reach a climax. A moment of truth.
Interview exerts found on popphoto.com.