Interviews

An Interview with Rineke Dijkstra (2012)

By The ASX Team on July 22, 2013

One
 of 
the
 things
 that
 Rineke 
Dijkstra 
does 
when 
she 
makes 
her photographs
 is 
eliminate
 contextual
 detail
 or 
minimize 
it.

Transcript
 of 
Rineke 
Dijkstra:
 A
 Retrospective  Solomon 
R.
 Guggenheim
 Museum, 
New
York June 
29 –October
 8,
 2012

Jennifer
 Blessing,
 Senior
 Curator,
Photography:
 Rineke 
Dijkstra:
 A
 Retrospective
 is
 a
 mid‐career 
survey 
of 
this
 important 
Dutch 
photographer’s 
work 
and 
it 
includes both works. There
 are
 71
 photographs 
in the
 show 
and 
five
video 
installations,
 which 
are installed 
on
 four 
floors.
 The 
best
 way 
to
 see the 
show 
is 
to
 start 
on 
the 
second 
floor and 
go 
from 
there 
to 
the 
seventh
 floor 
where 
you
 will
 see 
the 
grand 
finale 
of 
the show, The
 Krazyhouse [2009].

Rineke  is
 primarily 
known 
as
 a
 portrait 
photographer.
 She 
uses
 a large‐format camera
 that
 produces
 beautiful,
 large 
negatives.

Rineke
 Dijkstra: 
It’s
 a 
slow
 process 
of
 working.
 It
 demands 
a 
lot 
of concentration
 from
 both
 me
 and,
 you
 know, 
the 
subject,
 and that
 creates
 also
 a 
kind of
 intensity,
 to
 get 
really 
close
 to 
the
 subject.
 You 
can see
 things
 that 
you
 normally wouldn’t
 notice 
because 
everything 
is 
so 
much 
in 
focus.
 And 
the
 size,
 I
 think 
for
 me the
 size,  it 
is 
important 
that 
you
 can 
still
 relate 
to 
the
 person 
in 
the
 picture.

Blessing: 
One
 of 
the
 things
 that
 Rineke 
Dijkstra 
does 
when 
she 
makes 
her photographs
 is 
eliminate
 contextual
 detail
 or 
minimize 
it. So 
in
 her
 early 
works, 
the Beach 
Portraits [1992–2002], there
 are 
photographs 
of
 adolescents
at 
the 
edge
 of the
 sea 
in 
locations
 around 
the 
world.
 In 
each
 case 
the
 figure 
is 
in
 tight 
focus,
 but 
the background 
kind 
of 
blurs
 out and 
it 
gives
 you
 a
 sense
 of
 atmosphere,
 and 
it’s beautiful
 in
 terms
 of
 the
 color 
but 
it
 creates 
a
 kind
 of
 backdrop 
for 
the 
figure.

180

 from Beach 
Portraits (1992–2002)

 “Rineke 
Dijkstra 
is
 very 
interested 
in 
transitional
 states. 
She 
has
 photographed 
new 
mothers 
right 
after 
giving 
birth,
 after 
they
 have
 experienced
 an
 incredibly 
demanding
 physical
 and
 emotional
 experience.
 She 
also
photographed
 Portuguese 
bullfighters 
right
 after
 they 
had 
come 
out 
of
 the
 ring,
 also 
involved 
in 
a
 demanding 
kind
 of
 experience.”

Dijkstra: 
It 
was 
sort 
of 
a
 studio 
backdrop. It 
always
 appeared 
in
 a 
different 
way, because,
you
 know, 
it
 depends 
on 
the
 weather, 
it 
depends
 on 
the 
time 
of 
the 
day. 
It’s
 always 
different 
colors;
 it’s 
never 
the
 same. By 
isolating
people,
 by 
just 
taking
 them
 out
 of 
their 
context, 
it
 was 
just
 about 
[the] 
figures.
 When 
you 
escape 
everything
 from 
the 
image,
 which 
is
 not 
important,
 you
 start
 to 
focus 
much 
more
 on 
the
 details,
 and 
those
 details 
can tell
 a story.

Blessing: 
In 
subsequent 
bodies 
of
 work,
 when
 Rineke
 shot 
indoors, 
she
 minimized
 the
 backgrounds 
by
 removing 
furniture,
 or 
in 
the 
case
 of 
the 
photographs 
of 
New
 Mothers
[1994],
 Rineke 
asked 
them 
to
 stand 
in
 a
 place 
against
a
 white 
wall,
 creating
 almost 
a
 studio
 within 
their
 home.

Dijkstra:
 In
 Holland
 most
 women 
give 
birth 
at
 home.
 One
 of
 my 
best 
friends 
gave
 birth 
to 
her 
first
 child,
 and 
I 
was
 there
 and
 I
 witnessed
 that
 whole
 process
 of 
[going] into 
labor.
 So,
 when
 the
 baby 
was 
finally 
there
 she 
showed 
it 
to 
me,
 and 
I
 mean, there 
were
 so 
many 
emotions
 at 
that
 moment,
 you
 know,
 she
 was 
proud,
 she
 was
 exhausted,
 she
 was
 happy,
 she
 was 
relieved,
 and 
it
 was 
such 
an 
intense
 moment 
that
 I
 was 
just
 wondering 
if 
it
 was
 possible
to 
capture 
all
 of 
those 
different
 emotions
 in
 an 
image.

Blessing: 
Rineke 
Dijkstra 
is
 very 
interested 
in 
transitional
 states. 
She 
has
 photographed 
new 
mothers 
right 
after 
giving 
birth,
 after 
they
 have
 experienced
 an
 incredibly 
demanding
 physical
 and
 emotional
 experience.
 She 
also
photographed
 Portuguese 
bullfighters 
right
 after
 they 
had 
come 
out 
of
 the
 ring,
 also 
involved 
in 
a
 demanding 
kind
 of
 experience. 
This
 came 
out
 of
 a
 portrait 
that 
she
 made 
of 
herself
 when 
she
 was 
involved
 with
 doing 
rehab
after
 an 
accident
 and
 she 
was
 swimming.
 She 
found 
that 
when 
she 
was 
exhausted 
she 
felt
 she 
could 
take 
a
 picture 
that
 was
 un‐posed 
and 
captured 
her
 exhaustion, 
but 
also
 her 
emotional
 state.

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Dijkstra:
 So 
after
 working
 in
 commission 
for 
a
 couple 
of
 years 
I
 wanted 
to work
 on,
 maybe,
 a
 project,
 which
 was
 more
 related 
to 
myself. And
 so, 
I
 took
 two
 months
 off
 to
 think 
about
 it,
 but
 nothing 
really 
came 
up at 
[the 
end 
of
the]
 two 
months,
 and 
the
 last
 day 
of
 that
 period 
I
 had 
a 
bicycle 
accident
 and 
I
 broke 
my
 hip.

So, 
I 
had
 to
 stay 
in 
bed 
for 
five 
months 
and 
after
 that
 I
 had
 to
 do 
exercises
 for
 rehabilitation 
to 
recover
 from
 that
 accident
 and 
I
 had 
to
 swim 
every day. And 
I
 swam 
every day, 
thirty 
laps,
 and one
 day
 I
 had 
the 
idea
 to 
take 
a
self‐portrait
 after
 swimming. At 
that
 point
 you
 are 
too exhausted,
 you 
are 
really 
tired, 
so
 you don’t
 think 
about
 a 
pose 
and
 it arises 
more 
unconsciously.

Blessing:
 Rineke’s
 videos
 are 
very 
much 
like 
her 
photographs. 
They 
capture 
an individual 
isolated 
against 
a
 white
 backdrop. The
 camera 
is
 still
 and
 yet,
 of
 course, you 
have 
the
 capacity 
to
 see
 a 
person 
moving.
 She 
is
 very
interested 
in 
the 
way
 people 
dance 
and 
experience 
music 
and 
the
 way 
that 
we 
respond 
to 
it. In
 2009, Rineke 
Dijkstra
 shot 
a 
video 
in 
Liverpool 
at 
a
 club 
called
 Krazyhouse.

Dijkstra :
In 
The Krazyhouse 
I 
wanted 
to 
see 
if
 you 
could
 make 
a
 portrait
 of
 somebody 
that
 reveals 
parts 
of 
themselves 
just
 by
 dancing.
 I
 did 
the 
casting 
and 
I
 built 
a
 studio
 also 
in 
a 
club 
because
 I
 thought 
that
 was 
a 
place
 where
they 
maybe
 feel
 more 
comfortable.

What 
I 
like 
about 
building 
a 
studio 
is 
that 
I 
like 
to 
create 
circumstances 
where 
things
 can 
happen.
 I
 am
 a 
director 
at 
that
 point, 
but 
at
 the 
same 
time 
I 
want 
to 
leave 
things
 open.
 So 
it’s
 sort 
of 
a
 mixture 
of
 trying 
to 
have 
control
and
 not
 having 
control.

Blessing:
 The
 piece 
is 
realized
 as
 a 
series 
of 
five 
individual 
portraits 
and 
you 
see 
one
 dancer 
at 
a 
time 
on 
each
 of 
the 
four
 walls
 of 
the 
installation. Each
 has 
a
 quite
 different 
personality 
that 
comes
 across,
 and 
in
 each 
one 
you 
see
how 
important 
the
 music 
is 
for 
them.
 And
 it 
is 
especially 
interesting 
in 
the 
portrait
 of
 Dee,
 for
 example,
 where 
initially
 she’s
 hesitant, 
it 
seems
 that 
it’s 
not
 music
 that 
she’s
 quite 
familiar
 with,
 and
 you 
experience 
in real 
time as
she 
gradually
 kind
 of 
connects
 with 
the
 music.
 And
 suddenly 
there’s
 a 
line,
“when 
love 
takes 
over,”
 and 
she 
starts 
to
 completely 
engage 
the 
music.

Recently, Rineke 
made 
a 
piece 
called 
I
 See 
a
 Woman 
Crying (Weeping
 Woman) [2009],
 which 
is 
a
 wonderful 
three‐channel 
[HD]
 video 
installation
 that
 she
 made 
at
 the
 Tate 
in 
Liverpool.  She
 was
 working
 with
 school 
children
who
 had
 been
 visiting
 the
 museum 
and 
she 
saw 
them 
interacting, 
responding 
to
 artworks in
 the
 museum.
 So,
 she 
asked 
to
 have 
a
 group 
of 
the
 children
 respond
 to 
a
 painting 
by 
[Pablo]
 Picasso 
that
 you 
never
 see
 on 
camera,
 but
it
 is 
a
 painting
 called
 Weeping
 Woman [1937],
 so 
its 
subject 
is
 already
 an 
emotional
 one,
 and 
it’s
 very
 abstract 
so
 there 
is 
a
 lot
 of
 room 
for 
interpretation.
 And
 the
 children 
respond
 to 
this 
artwork 
in 
a
 very
 open
 and 
candid
 and speculative 
way, and also 
bring 
to 
it
 their
 own 
worries 
and
 concerns
 as 
they 
try
 to 
understand 
why 
the
 woman 
in
 the
 picture 
is 
so 
upset.

In 
all 
of
 her 
work 
you 
are
 very
 conscious, 
I 
think,
 of
 her
 empathy 
for 
her
 subjects.
 Even
 when 
they 
seem 
somewhat
 uncomfortable,
 they 
also
 seem
 very
 brave.
 There
 is
 a 
kind
 of
 mixture
 of
 a 
lot 
of
 emotion 
in 
what 
are 
really
very
 deadpan,
 straightforward,
 realistic 
photographs.

Olivier, Camp Rafalli, Calvi, Corsica, June 18, 2001.

ASX CHANNEL: RINEKE DIJKSTRA

(All rights reserved. Text @ the Guggenheim Museum and Rineke Dijkstra. Images @ Rineke Dijkstra)

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