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.