Out of Time: A Contemporary View
August 30, 2006–April 9, 2007
Dijkstra first photographed Almerisa—a Bosnian girl whose family had relocated to Amsterdam—as part of a project documenting children of refugees. She continued photographing her and made eight photographs over eleven years. The images maintain a consistent compositional format, showing an isolated figure seated in distinct interior settings, looking incrementally more modern as time passes. The pictures not only document Almerisa's development from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood but also record her progression through cultural and geographic displacement.
Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, May 7, 2010–April 4, 2011
Artist, Rineke Dijkstra: Hello. I'm Rineke Dijkstra and you are looking at Almerisa. I first met her in an asylum-seeker center in Leiden, the Netherlands, where I was working on a series of portraits of children of refugees. I met her parents, and they told me that they were refugees from Bosnia, where they escaped from the war, and they just arrived in Holland two weeks earlier after they roamed around in Europe for about six months.
I was photographing another kid and Almerisa was watching me as I was photographing this other kid, and suddenly she started to cry, and I ask her, well, what's wrong, what's the matter? And she said, "I also want to be photographed!" And I said, "Well, do you have a nice dress?" And she said, "Yes, sure." And so 20 minutes later she came back in this outfit. And I think because she has just cried before, she looked a bit sad and silent, which I think makes this picture really special.
One thing I really like in the pictures of Almerisa, if you look at the third picture, the moment that she gets grounded in the Netherlands her feet also reach the ground. And you can see how Almerisa is changing, transforming from a child into a young woman in the way she dresses, but also in her attitude, you can see how she's adapting to West European culture.
As a photographer, you're only partly in control. You can control the background and you can control the light, but how the figure is sitting, that's what she decides. And I don't like to give many directions. I like it when a portrait has something mysterious, which you can never really put your finger on.