Bettina Rheims

Donation of her entire archive

The French photographer Bettina Rheims (born 1952) has entrusted the Institut pour la photographie with her photographic archive, which constitutes an important body of work, representing her photographic creation since the 1980s. 

Bettina Rheims favours work in the studio and is known for her elaborate stagings, which reveal her sense of perfection and her interest in narration and provocation.
Rheims found success in the early 1990s, when she received a series of commissions: advertising campaigns, celebrity portraits, and collaborations with international magazines.
Her portraits of personalities such as Catherine Deneuve, Madonna, Monica Bellucci, Charlotte Rampling and Sharon Stone quickly became iconic.
In 1995, she took the official portrait of President Jacques Chirac. 

In parallel with her commissions, she developed a personal body of work that questioned contemporary society and challenged the iconography and traditional themes of photography.
Her series Modern Lovers (1990), Gender Studies (2011), Kim (1990) and Les Espionnes (1992), question the very essence of gender as well as the reticence of the society of the time. In the 2000s, she made headlines with her I.N.R.I. series, which proposes a rereading of the Bible through the life of Christ. Continuing her collaboration with Serge Bramly, they spent a whole year in China. As privileged witnesses of the country’s transformation, in the series Shanghaï they revealed the confrontation between fantasies of modernity and a society marked by tradition . 

In 2014, encouraged by Robert Badinter, she discovered the conditions of women’s incarceration in France and produced the series Détenues which brings together more than fifty portraits of incarcerated women. More recently, she explored the question of the female body as a political tool. She produced the series Naked War, which resulted from her encounter with the Femen movement.

She has published more than 20 books including Female Trouble, Chambre Close, Modern Lovers, Gender studies and Rose c’est Paris. A book that brings together more than 500 photographs taken across 35 years of her career was published by Taschen Editions.
In 2018, the Détenues series was published by Editions Gallimard. 

Bettina Rheims is an internationally renowned photographer whose work is represented in numerous public collections in France and abroad. Her work has been exhibited in the most prestigious contemporary art museums. Her retrospective exhibition at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris in 2016 received over 60,000 visitors. 

With more than 230,000 photographs, the donation to the Institut includes all of Rheims’ archives, including negatives, contact sheets, polaroids, reference and exhibition prints, technical shooting sheets, handwritten notes, all of her publications, including magazines, and her library. This donation heralds a close collaboration between the Institut and Bettina Rheims, who wishes to share her experience and actively participate in the Institut’s programme of activities.