Rineke Dijkstra. Almerisa, Asylum Center, Leiden, The Netherlands. March 14, 1994 26

Chromogenic color print, 13 3/4 × 11" (35 × 28 cm). Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel. © 2020 Rineke Dijkstra

Artist, Rineke Dijkstra: Hello. I’m Rineke Dijkstra, and you’re looking at Almerisa.
I first met her in 1995. I met her parents, and they told me they were refugees from Bosnia, where they escaped from the war.

I was photographing another kid, and Almerisa was watching me, and suddenly she started to cry, and I ask her, “well what’s wrong, what’s the matter?” And she said, “I also want to be photographed.” And I said, “well, do you have a nice dress?” And she said, “yes, sure.” And twenty minutes later she came back in this outfit. And I think just because she cried before, she looked a bit sad, which I think makes this picture really special.

You can see how Almerisa is changing in the pictures transforming from a child into a young woman in the way she dresses, but also in her attitude.

As a photographer, you're only partly in control. You can control the background, and you can control the light, but how the figure is sitting, that's what she decides. And I don't like to give many directions. I like it when a portrait has something mysterious, what you can never really put your finger on.