The dialectic of photography, the merging of a moment in time and the permanent capture within an image, plays a pivotal role in Rineke Dijkstra's oeuvre. In her series Beaches she has portrayed adolescent boys and girls, who are in a transitory phase of discovering their identity, while they are no longer children, but no adults either yet. The vulnerability of their age is further enhanced by being portrayed in little concealing swimwear. The adolescents are extremely self-aware, while at the same time not sure what to do with their changing bodies and long limbs. Dijkstra does not instruct the people she is about to portray, rather, she wants them to take on a pose, which is on the one hand socially and culturally constructed, and on the other hand very personal: 'It's about the interaction between what [the adolescents] choose to show and what they can't help showing' according to Dijkstra (Rineke Dijkstra quoted from an interview, in the information leaflet Rineke Dijkstra, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, 1998).
In the present lot, Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 27, 1992, the discomfort of puberty is shown differently by the two boys. The boy on the left has taken on a very firm and frontal posture, his weight distributed evenly through his earthed feet and his shoulders confidently straight. His gaze is focused directly on the camera and the concentration also shows from his clenched jaw. The boy on the right is standing in the classical contrapposto with his slightly rotated torso and his weight on his right leg. His hunched shoulders and the chin on his chest contribute to a shy and aloof bearing. The photograph shows a difference between the personalities of the two boys, but it equally represents larger themes of life: confident adulthood and weary adolescence, as well as masculinity and femininity. The boy on the left can be associated with masculine self-determination, while the pose of the right boy is reminiscent of a very feminine one, namely of the Venus in the Birth of Venus from Sandro Botticelli, against which the girl Dijkstra portrayed in Kolobrzeg, Poland, 26 July, 1992, her best-known photograph, is often mirrored.
With the series Beaches the artist questions certain social values such as set notions on masculinity and femininity, but also the technical usages of the medium photography. The scenery is composed out of beach, sea and sky. These three elements normally conjure up associative words such as "vast" and "endless", but Dijkstra opposes this through limiting the limitlessness of these elements by framing it through her lens. In addition, for all the images, she has chosen a low perspective for her camera, showing the adolescents full-length, looking slightly down on the camera with a large surface of sky behind them. This makes the subjects appear imposing in size, which is a surprising contrast with their juvenile features.
The boys in the present lot are a perfect example of the changing body during puberty. Their faces are the faces of young and innocent children, with slender upper bodies with a slightly protruding belly, but with the too long arms and legs of a teenager and hands and feet that are too big for their body. Hands are always a difficult body part to place when being photographed, but for adolescent boys, this adds an extra awkwardness to it, since they really do not know what to do with these drawling limbs.