Welcome to this eleventh episode of the new Dior Talks series ‘The Female Gaze’. With the term developed in response to the writings of feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey, this podcast series will explore how the work of the female photographers and creatives collaborating with Dior offers a radically new and progressive image of women.
In this episode, series host Charlotte Jansen, a British journalist and author, speaks with one of the legendary figures of photography in the last half century. Bettina Rheims has been prominent and highly prolific in the world of portraiture, and also fashion photography, for four decades, having first picked up a camera in 1978. She started by photographing a group of female striptease artists and became fascinated by capturing the femininity, power and corporeality of womanhood. This is a fascination which she has maintained ever since in a long and varied career.
Bettina Rheims was born in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1952, into a family deeply involved with the worlds of art, literature and the media. Her passion for photography evolved in the late 1970s, after she had already had careers as a model, journalist and gallerist. She had published almost twenty books of her images from the 1980s to the 2010s. She has photographed Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, Madonna, Marianne Faithful and Claudia Schiffer amongst many, many others. She has also undertaken advertising campaigns for numerous fashion labels and worked with countless international magazines. She has always combined her skill in capturing the unique qualities of her famous female subjects with an interest in the bizarre, shocking and subcultural. She has had solo exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, the Kunsthal Rotterdam and the Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lyon. In 2016, as part of the #TheWomenBehindTheLens project initiated by Maria Grazia Chiuri, Rheims photographed Laetitia Casta for Dior Magazine as the embodiment of a modern, liberated woman.
In this week’s episode, Jansen speaks with Rheims about her radical ideas of beauty and femininity, and how these have evolved over the years. Having taken portraits of prisoners, porn actors, political figures and countless women both cisgender and trans, Rheims has constantly expanded and developed notions of womanhood and womanly strength. When asked why she photographs women, Rheims answers with characteristic honesty, “This is the question I have been asked the most. I haven’t yet found an answer.” This episode represents a treasured opportunity to hear her deepest thoughts on this and other prescient subjects.