Almerisa, Rineke Dijkstra's photography

Rineke Dijkstra Almerisa

Almerisa, Asylumseekerscenter Leiden, March 14, 1994.

Almerisa documents the transition in a girl’s life, not only showing her adjustment to a new culture, but also the way she tries to find herself by experimenting with different modes of outward appearance.

Wormer, June 23, 1996.

Wormer, February 21, 1998.

Leidschendam, December 9, 2000.

Leidschendam, April 13, 2002.

Leidschendam, June 25, 2003.

Leidschendam, March 29, 2005.

Leidschendam, March 24, 2007.

Zoetermeer, January 4, 2008.

Asylumseekerscenter Leiden, June 19, 2008.

Artist's Statement

Dijkstra met the subject of what would become her longest-running series to date while making portraits at a refugee centre in Leiden, The Netherlands. Five years old at the time, Almerisa arrived with her family from Bosnia (by way of Austria and Germany) just two weeks earlier. 

Dijkstra prepared a small, bare studio with a chair in the corner of the room where the girl was staying. In the resulting image, with her brightly coloured Bosnian-chic dress, straightforward pose, and direct, intense gaze, Almerisa offers striking contrast to the empty beige walls and floors that surround her.
In each of the next ten images, Almerisa is centred in the middle of the frame and shown seated against a wall or window in a neutral area of the place she was living at the time of the portrait. Typically made one or two years apart, each photograph shows how Almerisa’s appearance changes with her adjustment to Dutch culture. From a shy Bosnian girl she grows up to be a young Western woman who wears the right branded clothes and fashionable make-up. But Almerisa is also a girl who needs these clothes and make-up to build up her own image, her own self, just as she sees everyone else doing, around her as well in the omnipresent Western media (and she keeps doubting about wearing shoes in the house – Bosnians don’t).

Taken as a whole, Almerisa documents the transition in a girl’s life, not only showing her adjustment to a new culture, but also the way she tries to find herself by experimenting with different modes of outward appearance. In the most recent image, the young girl from the beginning of the series sits confidently as an adult with her own child on her lap; a boy she has with her husband who’s originally from Surinam. The cycle of life starts all over again.

About the photographer


1959, Sittard, Netherlands



Based in


About Rineke Dijkstra

Rineke Dijkstra was born in Sittard, The Netherlands in 1959. She attended the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam from 1981-1986. She has been honoured with the Citibank Photography Prize (1999); the Werner Mantz Award (1994); and the Kodak Award Netherlands (1987) among others.

Since the early 1990s, Rineke Dijkstra has produced a complex body of photographic and video work, offering a contemporary take on the genre of portraiture. Her large-scale colour photographs and videos mainly of young, typically adolescent subjects, show subtle, minimal contextual details and encourage us to focus on the exchange between photographer and subject and the relationship between viewer and viewed. From the Beach Portraits of 1992 to the video installation BuzzclubMysterworld (1996-1997), Tiergarten Series (1998-2000), Israeli Soldiers (1999-2000), and the single-subject portraits in serialtransition: Almerisa (1994-2005), Shany (2001-2003) and Olivier (2000-2003), the focus and strength of her oeuvre has been capturing what is both uniquely personal and universal about her subjects. More recently, Dijkstra has built upon her revelatory work in video from the mid-1990s. In The Buzz Club, Liverpool, UK / Mystery World, Zaandam, NL (1996–97), and The Krazyhouse (Megan, Simon, Nicky, Philip, Dee), Liverpool, UK (2009), Dijkstra filmed teenage habitués of local clubs dancing to their favourite music. Two video works made in 2009 at Tate Liverpool expand the artist’s interest in the empathetic exchange between photographer and subject to include the affective response to artworks. In I See A Woman Crying (Weeping Woman) (2009), a group of school children engage with art, discussing their perceptions and reactions to a work by Pablo Picasso, while Ruth Drawing Picasso (2009) shows a girl pensively sketching a masterwork.

Rineke Dijkstra was recently the subject of a mid-career retrospective on view at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2012). Other recent solo exhibitions include a 2005-2006 tour of Rineke Dijkstra, Portraits, which was on view at: Galerie National du Jeu de Paume, Paris; Fotomuseum, Winterthur; Fundacio la Caixa, Barcelona; Stedelijk Museum CS, Amsterdam; and Rudolfinum, Prague, two solo shows at Marian Goodman Gallery, in Paris and New York (2010), Rineke Dijkstra: I See a Woman Crying at Tate Liverpool (2010) and earlier this year the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) Frankfurt showed the first comprehensive film retrospective of the Dutch artist’s work.