Bettina Rheims: Retrospective.
Photographs by Bettina Rheims. Essays by Serge Bramly, Kim Levin, Jean-Christophe Ammann, and Berndt Arell.
Prestel, New York, 2004. 208 pp., 148 color and duotone illustrations, 9¼x11¾".

Throughout all of her voluminous series, Rheims explores the idea of performance, particularly how gender is performed. Known for her stylized, conceptual photographs of young women, Rheims adopts a commercial gaze and creates fake settings where her subjects consciously perform in ways they feel sexy. More Trouble follows on the 1991 monograph Female Trouble and presents her newest photographs. Retrospective provides a selection from each of her projects, most notable “Chambre Closed” where she collaborated with working women in rented hotel rooms. Each photograph enacts a private performance, usually an in-between moment as panties roll off the hips or a shirt comes over the breasts, all for the voyeuristic and hypothetically male viewer. Also of interest are her portraits of celebrities, transgendered men, and androgynous teens, as well as her series with performance artist Serge Blamy: a contemporary interpretation of biblical history where Christ appears as both woman and androgen. Throughout, Rheims ’s favored subjects, still uncomfortable in their bodies and their gender roles, are self-consciousness in front of the camera, conflicting with the professional make up and commercial settings they inhabit and that we, as visual consumers, are accustomed to seeing in fashion and sex magazines. In these elaborate artificial scenarios, often a collaborative effort between Rheims and her subject, Rheims creates a space where gender is both performed and challenged. Here, sex explicitly reveals itself to be an act, and the woman’s awareness of her performance in it disrupts traditional illusions of the feminine erotic. Out at the same time, Retrospective and More Trouble together provide a panoramic and focused view into her glorious body of work to date. Read Publisher's Description.

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