I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Monday, 18 February 2008
Rineke Dijkstra's work is always worth looking at as I mentioned on Conscientious here
(scroll down for my thoughts on her Hilton Head beach portrait) and as I will mention here again for the sake of my chronological pictures worth looking at theme.
The other heavily reproduced image in the Beach Portraits is this Venus picture from Poland. This reprises the physicality of the Hilton Head image, but with a more relaxed pose. The Hilton Head image is heartbreaking because the girl is trying so hard to be beautiful, her mother is goading her about being fat (and of course she's not fat) and everything about the girl conforms to American ideals of what beauty is (it's a sanitized, controlled beauty that's ugly, inside and out) - the girl is beautiful, but she would be more beautiful if she cared less about her appearance, read fewer women's magazines and spent less on cosmetics.
The Polish Venus doesn't have that problem - and so the ease of her beauty jumps out at you. The transitional stage of her life (and of Dijkstra's work as a whole) also jumps out with the creases and folds of the swimsuit.
People have taken to labelling Dijkstra's (and Sander's) work deadpan, though I don't really understand why. It is direct, understated and subtle, but it is filled with emotion and meaning in a way that is anything but deadpan. And the same goes for her other series, though some pictures are obviously more equal than others - with the Hilton Head and Polish Venus being the most equal of all.