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.
French artist Bettina Rheims has 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).