AN AMAZING RETROSPECTIVE OF FRENCH PHOTOGRAPHER BETTINA RHEIMS, DISCIPLE OF HELMUT NEWTON
Bettina Rheims has a talent for embracing transgressions and a vision that does away with conventions. The French photographer was a disciple of Helmut Newton, and his influence is visible in her work.
This photographer has mastered the codes of nude photography, and transformed them putting femininity at its core, focusing on questions of gender, expanding the codes of representation. She is a brilliant portraitist who has managed to widen our collective consciousness.
She’s captured black-and-white portraits of anonymous prostitutes she met in Paris, staged discomfiting bordello burlesques of women splayed on beds in “Chambres Closes” and photographed celebrities in come-hither poses.
In addition to her controversial nudes, Rheims created more delicate series which show a more empathetic approach: portraits of female prisoners incarcerated in Rennes, a curious exploration of Shanghai in the 21st century, and two series, shot 30 years apart, that explore transgender culture.
Her heroines are all captured with the same kindness, be they famous or anonymous. Bettina Rheims is an image creator, her photos are a testament of a secular pictorial tradition.
La Maison Européenne de la Photographie presents an amazing retrospective of Bettina Rheims. In 1990, when it was still being built, Bettina had exhibited her “Modern Lovers” series and in 2000, it was her controversial work “I.N.R.I.” that was displayed. What better place to present her journey through forty years of photography?
The exhibition explores her work starting from the various characters that inhabit her photos. The spectators find themselves face-to-face with life size representations that question the idea of femininity and identity.
‘Bettina Rheims’ is on view through March 27 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris.