Olga: fantasy and glamour, power and provocation

Bettina Rheims and the Russian oligarch's beautiful wife

French photographer Bettina Rheims’s explicit portraits of a glamorous Moscovite beauty, commissioned by her millionaire Russian oligarch husband. Limited to 1,000 numbered copies, each signed by Bettina Rheims.

Olga Rodionova is a well-known beauty and key player in  Moscow’s fashionable jet set. When her husband Sergey, a powerful Russian oligarch, wanted nude portraits made of his wife, he approached Bettina Rheims. The renowned French photographer accepted, albeit with trepidation. But that disappeared when Olga arrived on the first day. "This huge black limo arrived," recalls Rheims, "and an amazing pair of long, never-ending legs stepped out. She was really pretty and not cheap at all. And she turned out to be very funny and intelligent. Suddenly an obligation turned into something much more interesting."

Rheims was captivated by Olga’s lust for life, and excited by the challenge of making edgy, arousing and explicit images that would transcend mere pornography. After the initial shoot at Rheims’s country home, Olga’s husband suggested the two women collaborate on a book–with Olga as its star. A second shoot followed, with a sado-masochistic theme, and other characters playing sex games with Olga. A third shoot, inspired by Marie-Antoinette, took place in the studio. The Book of Olga is a compelling depiction of female sexuality, allure, desire, intrigue and fantasy. With over 100 images and an introduction by French author Catherine Millet, this unique book is both a love song and a bold artistic statement.
The photographer:
French artist Bettina Rheims produced numerous major photographic series, which have been exhibited all over the world. Her books include Female Trouble (1989), Modern Lovers (1990), Chambre Close (1994), I.N.R.I. (1998), X'Mas (2000), Shanghai (2003), Héroïnes (2007), The Book of Olga (2008 for TASCHEN) and Rose, C'est Paris (2010 for TASCHEN).

The contributing author:
Catherine Millet is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Art Press. She is also a curator and the author of many books, including La vie sexuelle de Catherine M. (2001).
Bettina Rheims. The Book of Olga (Collector's Edition)
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Bettina Rheims. The Book of Olga

Bettina Rheims, Catherine Millet
Hardcover in clamshell box, 11.5 x 17.2 in., 154 pages
$ 3,000
  • Reviews
“In 2008 Rheims accepted a private commission to photograph Olga Rodionova, the wife of a Russian oligarch. This is one of several similar commissions she has undertaken in Russia over the past few years, a country where, she says, 'you can go much further with your fantasies'. With the encouragement of Rheims, the one-off commission became a continuing, increasingly more explicit project... The resulting project was published by TASCHEN under the title The Book of Olga and was lauded by French critics as a work of art.”
— Professional Photographer, London, United Kingdom
  • See also
Ellen von Unwerth. The Story of Olga, Art Edition A (Collector's Edition)
Few left Ellen von Unwerth. The Story of Olga, Art Edition A
Archival pigment print, 11.8 x 15.8 in., hardcover volume in clamshell box, 13 x 17.2 in., 350 pages
$ 1,800
Ellen von Unwerth. The Story of Olga (Collector's Edition)
Ellen von Unwerth. The Story of Olga
Hardcover in clamshell box, 13.0 x 17.2 in., 350 pages
$ 700
  • What's up
Retrospective Bettina Rheims
January 27, 2016 - March 27, 2016
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, 5 Rue de Fourcy, 75004 Paris, France