Kolobrzeg, Poland

Artist: Rineke Dijkstra (Dutch, born Sittard, 1959)

Date: 1992

Medium: Chromogenic print

Dimensions: 121 x 101cm (47 5/8 x 39 3/4in.)
Frame: 49 × 42 in. (124.5 × 106.7 cm)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, Roy R. and Marie S. Neuberger Foundation Inc., Jennifer and Joseph Duke, Gary and Sarah Wolkowitz and Anne Marie MacDonald Gifts, 2001

Accession Number: 2001.307

Rights and Reproduction: © Rineke Dijstra


Between 1992 and 1996, Dijkstra produced a series of full-length portraits of teenagers on various beaches in Poland, Croatia, the Ukraine, Belgium, England, and America, describing the liminal state of adolescence with startling eloquence. Posing her young subjects before a luminous background of sand, sea, and sky, she imbues the portraits with an elemental, almost mythic quality that seems to transcend the carefully observed particulars of national identity and class.

In this photograph, a skinny Polish girl in a lime-green bathing suit confronts the camera with a heartbreaking blend of awkwardness and studied nonchalance. Standing at the ocean's edge, she tilts her head and slips unconsciously into a classical contrapposto pose. Dijkstra captures this moment with her camera, deftly revealing the eternal within the everyday. Shot from a low angle against a darkening sky, the girl appears simultaneously large and small-monumental yet vulnerable, half exposed, half grown, halfway between innocence and experience. With its perfectly modulated blend of clarity and ambiguity, the photograph is a stunning depiction of Venus at the awkward age.