French photographer Bettina Rheims questions femininity, fantasies and female sexuality through an imposing body of work, from advertising commercials to museum walls.

 An instinctive work, It is both very elaborate and nourished by artistic culture. A free spirit, she borrows as much from the "female gaze" as the male, from Diane Arbus as much as Helmut Newton. Her work won't be locked up: it disturbs.

Whether photographing Charlotte Rampling, Madonna, Naomi Campbell, anonymous prisoners, Femen, (or even Jacques Chirac!) her photographs become iconic. 

Modern icons who set up their models as gods (and often as fallen goddesses of Olympus, somewhat the worse for wear).

Ever since Modern Lovers, her pioneering work has approached non-gendered sensualities.
Above all she shows bodies transcended by desire.

At the heart of this special edition, the films My Life, Femen. Naked War and Gender Studies take us into the world of Bettina Rheims. She also returns in an exclusive interview for Darkroom Rumour on her recent projects. Serge Bramly, director of Rose, c’est Paris, writer and photographic specialist revisits Bettina Rheims' founding years.

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Linked Articles

Fragments : an interview with Bettina Rheims
Bettina Rheims by Bettina Rheims

Fragments : an interview with Bettina Rheims

linked to Bettina Rheims, My Life

Emmnauel Bacquet: You have photographed women a lot, though not exclusively, and what is striking is the way the markers appear jumbled in your pictures. There's no apparent classification between stars and unknowns, between commissioned photos and those taken outside of any campaign.

Bettina Rheims (by Serge Bramly)
Serge Bramly by Serge Bramly

Bettina Rheims (by Serge Bramly)

linked to Bettina Rheims, My Life

How to define what photography is, what distinguishes it from its elders, painting, engraving, drawing (to which it was for a long time subservient) or, if you'd rather, what constitutes this specific mode of representation? When Bettina Rheims began her career in the late 1970s, only a small number of books were devoted to photography and the question remained embryonic, possibly unformulated. A few studies were beginning to surface, such as Susan Sontag's; Barthes had not yet published Camera Lucida; rare were the monographs that allowed us to tackle a coherent set of works. In a way it was a new age of pioneers, both for artists and for galleries, and the public and private collections that were gradually emerging.

Further exploration



• DÉTENUES - artist: Bettina Rheims ; author: Nadeije Laneyrie-Dagen ; introduction: Robert Badinter ; 2018 ; Gallimard ; French

• BETTINA RHEIMS: CO - directed by Patrick Remy ; 2017 ; Taschen ; multilingual

GENDER STUDIES - artist: Bettina Rheims ; 2014 ; Steidl Verlag 

• ROSE, C’EST PARIS - authors: Bettina Rheims, Serge Bramly and Thierry Grillet ; exhibition catalogue presented at the Bibliothèque nationale de France ; 2010 ; Taschen France ; trilingual edition

• CHAMBRE CLOSE - artist: Bettina Rheims ; author: Serge Bramly ; 2007 ; Schirmer Mosel 

• OXYMORIQUE, LES PHOTOGRAPHIES DE BETTINA RHEIMS - author: Michel Onfray ; 2005 ; Jannink Eds ; French

• SHANGHAÏ - artist: Bettina Rheims ; author: Serge Bramly ; 2004 ; PowerHouse Books

• FEMALE TROUBLE - artist: Bettina Rheims ; introduction: Catherine Deneuve ; 2002 ; Schirmer Mosel 

• I.N.R.I. - artist: Bettina Rheims ; author: Serge Bramly ; 1999 ; The Monacelli Press 

• ANIMAL - artist: Bettina Rheims ; author: Serge Bramly ; 1998 ; Gina Kehayoff Verlag

• MODERN LOVERS - artist: Bettina Rheims ; 1998 ; Edition Braus