Ria van Dijk, Self-portrait at a fairground shooting gallery, 1936.
I saw this at C/O Berlin, and it was great because it was so unexpected. Most of the gallery space was taken up by a Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective that spanned from tender portraits of Patti Smith to hardcore S&M. In a couple rooms towards the back on the second floor, though, was an exhibition of vernacular photography. The shooting gallery was a curious fairground attraction where one would shoot at a bullseye or at theatre figurines, and if you hit your target, a picture would be taken, so you’d get a self-portrait of yourself shooting. The exhibition had a functioning shooting gallery in one room (I didn’t try). In the other room was a series of amateur pictures by a woman named Ria van Dijk. She began taking self-portraits at shooting galleries in 1936, when she was 16 (above). She has continued every year since, with the exception of 1939-45, and she’s still going strong at 90. Every year was represented by one photograph. None of the photographs are particularly great by themselves, but the effect of more than seventy years of near-identical self portraits was pretty powerful.May 1, 2011