Born in 1959 in Sittard, Netherlands, Dijkstra graduated in 1986 from Gerrit Reitveld Academy in Amsterdam. She worked initially as a commercial photographer, specializing in portraits for newspapers, magazines, and business publications.
Then, while recuperating from an injury, Dijkstra photographed herself moments after swimming dozens of laps in a pool. The image conveyed her physical exhaustion. Significantly for Dijkstra, it depicted a moment when she was completely unguarded—too tired to pose for the camera or worry about how she appeared. The photograph inspired Dijkstra to develop her signature composition of a figure posed frontally against a minimal background.
Dijsktra first exhibited her photographs and videos in northern Europe, where the serial format she favors was prevalent in the 1980s and ’90s. Since 2001, she has enjoyed solo exhibitions at institutions in U.S. and Europe. She had retrospectives in 2005 at Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, and in 2012, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Dijsktra has also been featured at the Venice Biennale and the São Paulo Bienal.