Dana Lixenberg

Dana Lixenberg is a Dutch photographer living and working in New York and Amsterdam. Born in 1964, Dana pursued studies at the London College of Printing from 1984-1986, and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam from 1987-1989.

Dana is renowned for her intimate portraits of individuals and communities, often from the margins of society, whom she captures with a large-format field camera. This cumbersome tool necessitates what she refers to as a ‘slow dance’ between herself and her subjects; for Dana, it is important that each portrait by itself tells a unique story, and that she can project something of herself onto that portrait. As she studies her subject, works the composition, she creates a moment of suspended intimacy. It is the exposure and vulnerability of her subjects, no matter their background, that creates something truly magical.

Dana pursues long-term projects and her first significant and most extensive work to date ‘Imperial Courts’ (1993-2015) consists of a book, exhibition, and web documentary, for which she became a recipient of the Deutsche Börse Photography prize in 2017

She was originally commissioned by Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland to cover reconstruction efforts in Imperial Courts, a public housing project and community in Watts, Los Angeles that had been impacted by the notorious 1992 Los Angeles riots. Dana considered the media attention surrounding the riots, which occurred in response to the acquittal of police officers involved in the brutal assault of young African American man named Rodney King, to be superficial and sensationalised. In her eyes, gang culture had been mythologised in the media, and the community was only represented in brief segments that couldn’t do justice to their humanity and vulnerability. Speaking to these observations, Dana continued with ‘Imperial Courts’ in a bid to subvert the pervasive stereotypes that tarnished the community. Lixenberg portrayed residents as distinctive and charismatic personalities, without direct references to gang culture. The project was a vehicle through which the community could be represented in a more nuanced and authentic way. The contributions of Imperial Court residents are ongoing, and the project aims to build a historiography of which the residents are both protagonists and co-authors.

Her other works include ‘Jeffersonville, Indiana’ (1997-2004), a collection of landscapes and portraits of residents from the Haven House Homeless Shelter; and ‘The Last Days of Sishmaref’ (2007), which portrays an Inupiaq community on an eroding island off the coast of Alaska facing the threat of global warming and the dilemma of relocation; ‘Set Amsterdam’ (2011) where she explores the dramatic locations of her native city; and De Burgemeester/ The Mayor’ (2011) which captured the everyday activities of Dutch Mayors. The former two publications were awarded Best Dutch Book Design in 2005 and 2008 respectively. Through her work depicting underrepresented communities Dana emphasises the individuality of her subjects, affording them an agency that generalising media portrayals deny.

Dana is also recognised for her intimate and introspective portraits of American cultural icons, including Prince, Whitney Houston, Tupac Shakur, Toni Morrison, Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., and Mary J. Blige. These portraits of cultural icons were exhibited in her most recent show ‘American Images’(GRIMM New York, 2020). Her work has been widely exhibited and she continues to appear in collections worldwide. In addition to her numerous publications, Dana has had work published in Newsweek, Vibe, New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker and Rolling Stone. She is represented by GRIMM Amsterdam | New York.

By Sophia Nussey

Imperial Courts (1993 – 2015) at Belfast Exposed, Arts Council of Northern Ireland on YouTube

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Connect with Dana | grimmgallery.com | Instagram |

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