Rineke Dijkstra ‘Mothers’

Dijkstra’s portraits of three young mothers (Julia, Saskia and Tecla, all 1994) holding their new born babies to their chests with absolute, exhausted tenderness, exemplifies the restraint and deceptive simplicity of her approach towards representing people whose lives have been touched by commonplace but monumental change. Replace the sand with a floor and the sky with a hospital wall and the only thing that separates these images from the beach series is the nature of the transition that these people are experiencing. Our culture’s puritanical fear of the body, so beautifully reflected for hundreds of years in scores of paintings of bloodless, saintly motherhood, is countered in these truthful, unflinching images. One mother stands in her underwear, her sanitary pad bulgingly visible. The other two women stand naked, swollen, scarred and bloody.

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What I like the most about these images is that she does not glamourise the after effects of birth at all, she shows it with complete honesty.

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