Rineke Dijkstra. Odessa, Ukraine. August 4, 1993

Rineke Dijkstra Odessa, Ukraine August 4, 1993

  • Not on view

Odessa, Ukraine is one of twenty photographs of adolescents and teenagers that Dijkstra made between 1992 and 1998 on beaches in Belgium, Croatia, England, Poland, Ukraine, and the United States. Each of these portraits shows the full length of the figure standing in relief against a backdrop of sand, water, and sky. The simplicity of the pictures initially belies the complexity of the content but ultimately enhances it. While we first see each person as a shape and the pictures as interchangeable, we quickly become alert to the particulars of a subject’s posture, dress, economic status, and psychological state. In this picture, the boy’s gawkiness is clearly the result of his effort to present his body with the confidence of an adult.

Vulnerability emerges as a central preoccupation in the pictures, simultaneously describing the state of the individuals and a universal human condition. In all of Dijkstra’s portraits, which also include images of women who have just given birth and of matadors who have just left the bullring, she captures people in transition, when their heightened emotional or psychological states precipitate a change in their characters.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Additional text

Odessa, Ukraine is one of twenty photographs of adolescents and teenagers Dijkstra made between 1992 and 1998 on beaches in Belgium, Croatia, England, Poland, Ukraine, and the United States. Each of these portraits shows the full length of the figure standing in relief against a backdrop of sand, water, and sky. The simplicity of the pictures initially seems to deny the complexity of the content, but in fact it ultimately enhances it. While we first see each person as a shape and the pictures as interchangeable, we quickly become alert to the particulars of a subject's posture, dress, economic status, and psychological state. In this picture the subject's gawkiness is clearly the result of his effort to present his boyish body with the confidence of an adult.

An exceptional range of vulnerability characterizes the portraits and becomes the subject of the series. This repetition of vulnerability from figure to figure creates a kind of abstraction that simultaneously describes the state of the individual and a universal human condition. In all Dijkstra's portraits, which include mothers who have just given birth and matadors who have just left the bullring, she captures people during moments of transition, when their heightened emotional or psychological states precipitate a change in their characters.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 136.
Medium
Chromogenic print
Dimensions
46 3/8 × 37" (117.8 × 94 cm)
Credit
Gift of Agnes Gund
Object number
613.1997
Copyright
© 2021 Rineke Dijkstra
Department
Photography

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