Rineke Dijkstra is a Dutch photographer who primarily takes portraits that capture a very real sense of vivid and beautiful discomfort. Her series of photographs of young children and adolescents embodies the awkwardness of "coming of age." Its beauty arises from the sense of absolute reality in her work: it celebrates the ungainliness of life. Her work is a pleasant change from the photographs of airbrushed models that we see plastered across billboards, and their ‘imperfections’ (emphasis on the air quotes) make the figures more interesting and engaging.
I find Dijkstra’s photography moving because of the way it speaks to the idea of identity. I am always struck by the idea of identity as a representation, a balance between performance and some sort of ‘authentic’ self. Dijkstra’s subjects “are real young women who are “playing” themselves,” (Read more here!) experimenting with and exploring their identities. You can see the places where they don’t quite fit into the roles that they’re trying to play, and Dijkstra is able to exploit these little inconsistencies as little windows through which we can peek to see genuine emotion.
As women I think we encounter a very strong pressure to conform to specific identities; think about all of the labeling that goes on in the media. Our society is uncomfortable with the idea of a woman who feels free be whoever she wants. Dijkstra’s work poses a reminder that we don’t have to listen to those dictates, in fact, we are beautiful in our incongruity, in our angles, in our splotches and wrinkles and rolls. We are all artists in the process of building ourselves, and the world just has to deal with that because we’re not going anywhere.
Images courtesy of hyperallergic.com, imageobjecttext.com, and windandturnclothing.com/.