What Women Really Look Like On Their Own Terms, Without The Male Gaze (NSFW)

Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
Since the first project of photographer Bettina Rheims's 35-year career — a series of photos of Paris's strippers and acrobats — the Parisian and self-identified feminist has reimagined the lens through which we can view the female body. Her just-released eponymous book from Taschen showcases some 500 of Rheims' most striking images.

Sexual but never objectifying, even when skin is exposed, Rheims' photographs hint at the rich interior lives of her subjects — from celebrities such as Milla Jovovitch and Heather Graham to relative unknowns.

"I shoot women because I know them, as I’m a woman myself," Rheims recently told PhotoWhoa, of her instinct to document femininity in its many forms. "I understand their fears, I have their same hang-ups, I make the same dreams. It’s more exciting for me to penetrate a woman’s mind. It’s like doing a self-portrait."

Rheims has not shied from controversy, capturing subjects from models simulating orgasm to transgender youth to Jesus Christ as played by a woman. (The last project, I.N.R.I., unsurprisingly, drew vehement Catholic ire.) Still, the provocative nature of her work isn't the goal — it's a byproduct of her quest to draw out her subjects' emotions.

"I usually shoot following my instinct and trying to get something personal from my model," Rheims explained. "I think that’s what makes my image 'sexual.' I don’t think that 'sexual' means 'erotic' but it’s like you’re reaching something deep, unknown and secret in someone."

Click through to view 15 fearless photos from Rheims' new book.
1 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
Bettina Rheims, 2010.
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2 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Autoportorait de Valeria Golino par moi-même, Avril 1991, Los Angeles."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Gina and Elisabeth kissing, Mars 1995, Los Angeles."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Milla Jovovitch, étude Mars 2005, Paris."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Traci Lords smoking a cigarette in the Valentino Room of the Alexandria Hotel, Avril 1994, Los Angeles."
6 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Andrej P. III."
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7 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Charlotte Rampling, Septembre 1985, Paris."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Kristin Scott Thomas playing with a blond wig I, Mai 2002, Paris."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Sharon Stone IV, Juillet 1991, Los Angeles."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Karen Mulder with a very small Chanel bra, Janvier 1996, Paris."
11 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Renée Dorski, étude Mars 2005, Paris."
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12 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Leslie, Octobre 1989, Paris."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Marthe en guêpière, 1987, Paris."
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Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Eloy I."
15 of 15
Photo: Courtesy Of Bettina Rheims.
"Heather Graham in a strange mood crushing a Tab can, Novembre 1996, Los Angeles."
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