by Jan Mot, 2001
Last June, almost one year after the first shootings in Marseille, Rineke Dijkstra temporarily finished her project of the French Foreign Legion at the Camp Raffalli in Calvi (Corsica). The project resulted in a series of 5 large format portraits depicting the psychological and, to a lesser degree also physical transformation of an 18 year old legionnaire, called Olivier Silva, during his first year at the legion.
Olivier Silva was part of a group of 9 recrutes Rineke Dijkstra started to photograph on July 21, 2000. During a first period which lasted till November 30, the artist decided finally to focus on Silva. She photographed him at specific moments: the first time, minutes after he had been accepted into the legion, then the same day just after having received his military uniform and having had a hair cut. Follows poses after heavy physical excercises or key moments in his formation. In June she returned to the Legion, this time to the Second Regiment of Parachutists in Corsica to where Mr. Silva was sent. All the selected portraits are 'en buste' and characterised by the neutral background, the attention to the gaze and reduction of vestimentary details.
The work is a clear example of Dijkstra's interest in transitional moments in the lives of young people. Its inscribed in the series of portraits of individuals realised over a longer period of time: like the double portrait of Tia, the four portraits of Almerisa, over a period of 7 years, and more recently photographs of female soldiers and teenagers in Israel. Regarding Olivier Silva, Rineke Dijkstra has the intention to continue photographing him once or twice a year.
This new work had been initiated and produced by the gallery with the help of the Centre National des Arts Plastiques in France. With sincere thanks to the Foreign Legion.
Source: Gallery Newspaper 28: September-October 2001