November 21 - January 28, 2004
galerie jerome de noirmont

exhibition release

Bettina Rheims shall expose, at both exhibition spaces of the Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont (36-38 Avenue Matignon & 15 Rue Jean Mermoz, 75008 Paris) her latest series of photographs taken in 2002 during two long stays in Shanghai. These 64 color photographs are a turning point in the career of this well-known French photographer.

The first impressions of a traveler arriving in Shanghai are those of people with deep-rooted ancestral rituals and traditions who threw themselves into the frenetic race of the present-day world. Blending in into this "other way of thought" and without any prejudices, Bettina Rheims offers us a novel view of this paradox, which is the coexistence of China with its millenary traditions, its avant-garde facet, its official aspects and its underground features.

Irrespective of the photographed subject, Bettina Rheims always seeks the elusive - the personality veiled by a face or a silhouette, expressed or concealed feelings, a specific context representing the details of a scene, etc. Bettina Rheims chose here to photograph women from various strata and totally different worlds, with distinct personal experiences which reflect the complex atmosphere prevalent in present-day Shanghai. As a woman taking a picture of mainly other women, Bettina Rheims is awe-struck by the complex personalities of her models, who, when faced with the camera, try to give an image of themselves which is so different from the one that the western female models tend to portray. In this nation which untiringly defines the ideal woman, the women of Shanghai consistently strive to give a dignified image of themselves, with a smiling face and without any uncertainties, as "the soul does not exist", in order "to put up a good face and not to expose one´s vulnerability".

Although Bettina Rheims had to carefully constitute her own guanxi (connections, social network) to be able to approach her models, some models needed a lot of courage to pose. They thus expressed, in their own way, this "exciting whiff of the first time ever", this "touch of revenge in the air" which seems to float in present-day Shanghai and which heralds the return in strength of haipai, this way of life or modern ideas, liberal and cosmopolitan, which characterized Shanghai´s life style before the War and communism.

In this country where the "individual aspires to blend into the Great Whole", where, the image, just like acts, prevails over speech which is reserved to polity, Bettina Rheims succeeds in capturing the distinct identity of each of her models, thus showing us the multiple facets of Shanghai by portraying individual stories of its inhabitants.

Individual and group portraits, banquets and ceremonies, indoor and outdoor scenes - the variety in the photographs of the Shanghai series is a call to discover the very essence of the nature of the Chinese, unique to Shanghai - in perpetual transformation, that of a human being whose body, mood and thought evolve constantly in an unstable environment, whose least disruption does not go unfelt.

EXHIBITED WORKS: Shanghai series, 2002. 64 photographs. Color prints mounted on aluminum.
Single format: 112 x 90 cm. Edition of 3, numbered 1/3 to 3/3, and an artist´s proof, numbered EA 1/1.

BOOK: Shanghai, text by Serge Bramly Edition Robert Laffont. To be released on October 20, 2003.
28,5 x 33 cm. 252 color pages.