Photographs by Rineke Dijkstra. From left: Almerisa, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. March 24, 2007; Almerisa, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. January 4, 2008; Almerisa, Zoetermeer, The Netherlands. June 19, 2008 from www.moma.org
I started this project last year for my fourth year photography project. I put the stories and photographs into a book of which I only printed about 10 copies. This year I transitioned these stories online as I wanted to reach my target audience - young women - in a way that relates to them.
When interviewing and photographing women I am dealing with peoples’ lives and hence there are ethical concerns. I wanted to regain permission from people to upload their stories onto my website. This means contacting people a year after their involvement in the project. They’ve changed, I’ve changed, that was expected.
To my surprise, I only had one person who didn’t want their story on the website. We had a really good conversation about why it wasn’t appropriate for her story to be online and I was so pleased when she said that in a year or so she would like to be reinterviewed and rephotographed.
This brings up an issue with the work I’m currently making, and it’s something that does happen every now and then… People change, they transition, each person is multifaceted. One woman I interviewed this year quit her job. I’ve had to explain to people why I’m still including her in the project. I think her story rings true to many women’s experiences of struggling to balance family and work.
I’ve been researching Rineke Dijkstra, a dutch portrait photographer. Over a period of over a decade, Dijkstra has made a portrait of Almerisa (pictured above) every few years to document her growing up. The images work as a series and they make sense when viewed one after another. If you visit the MOMA website you can view all 11 portraits.
Dijkstra has spent years telling this one woman’s story. I only have one academic year, which is 24 weeks, or 34 if you include holidays (which I work through). I’ll be honest, it’s not enough time to fully know each person and represent them in the best way possible. The way I get around some of these issues is by using text. It enables them to tell stories of their past - where they grew up, what their childhood was like, and how that informed their adult self.
It brings up a few important questions - do I need to revisit each person every year and ‘add’ to their story… At what point is a story ‘finished’? I know this is something other artists struggle with, whether they’re photographers, painters, etc.
Dijkstra finished the Almerisa series on a photograph of her holding her first born. Personally, I would like to see this project carried on. It makes sense in some ways to finish there, but what is she implying - does this woman’s life stop when she becomes a mother? These are the sorts of issues I want to think deeply about when creating my own body of work about women.