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Bettina Rheims’ detainees, exhibited at the Château de Vincennes


A beautiful and troubling exhibition. A moving book. The origin of this project: an injunction from the essayist Robert Badinter at each of their meetings. “Bettina, you must go to prison, to photograph the women. They need your eye!” Three years ago, Bettina Rheims said, “Okay, let’s try it, who do I contact?” Badinter held out a card with a name on it. She wrote her request, but nothing happened. Six months later, she was offered a meeting. She had five days to draw up her project! “I spent hours on the blogs of former detainees”, she said. “And then I started to fashion my approach. A woman in prison forgets her identity, loses sight of her femininity, there’s no longer a man’s gaze and mirrors are rare.If she is not financially well off it’s not easy, the care products, health products and make-up and normal food disappear, and the decline begins!

 A formidable woman gave me her support  during 6 months: Isabelle Gorce, Director of the Prison Administration. At the first meeting twenty people raised their objections. ‘I like this project; it will be done!’ she concluded. After that six months were spent criss-crossing France. In the end, sixty women were photographed. All of them are in the exhibition and in the book. What did I bring to these women? A little window of pleasure, a hairdresser, a beautician and a picture that they will be able to look at and send to friends and family. That of a femininity found again for a little while.”.


Jean-Jacques Naudet


Bettina Rheims, Détenues
From 9th February to 30th April 2018
Sainte-Chapelle du Château de Vincennes
2 Cours des Maréchaux
75012 Paris

Book published by Gallimard

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