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A conversation with Renée Jacobs

season 3 episode 12
Nov 5 2021

Photojournalist, and then litigator turned one of the most celebrated photographers of the female nude of our time, Renée Jacobs talks about her career transformation, the visual representation of women in society and being a queer woman in her field of work.

About our guest

Formerly photojournalist and civil rights litigator, Renée is now one of the most celebrated photographers of the female nude of our time. Recipient of the prestigious International Photography Award for Fine Art nude, her work has been exhibited and published around the world.

Monographs of her work include Werkdruck (2012/Editions Galerie Vevais, edited and with an introduction by Jock Sturges); Renée Jacobs' PARIS (2013/Editions Galerie Vevais) and Rêves de Femmes (2014/Editions Bessard, selected by photo-eye as one of the “Books of the Year.”) Her book POLAROIDS (Galerie Vevais/Fall 2021) is her most queer and erotic book yet. The second edition of Renée Jacobs’ PARIS. Both PARIS and POLAROIDS are currently finally for sale.

Magazines that have featured Renée's work include Vanity Fair France, Elle Italia, PhotoVogue, Playboy Italy, Silvershotz, PH Magazine, Fine Art Photo, Nude Magazine, Photoicon, French Photo, B&W Magazine, Focus, FHM Turkey and numerous others. She has been featured in numerous anthologies, such as Taschen's Mammoth Book of Erotic Photography. Her work has been exhibited around the world. Her latest major exhibition was alongside Helmut Newton’s Private Property in FotoNostrum Gallery in Barcelona in October 2021.


Photo de Femmes
Books on Éditions Galerie Vevais

from Renée Jacobs' PARIS

from Renée Jacobs' PARIS

“I dealt with my conflicts about being other-ed” by becoming a lawyer”


Wendy Lake Como

S&B In The Bed
from Renée Jacobs' PARIS

“I want to give voice to a more authentic representation of desire”

Persy & Krista


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I’m happy to receive Renée Jacobs on today’s episode. She explains her career choices and transitions, details on her “PARIS” and “POLAROIDS” book, insights and anecdotes on the pressure of being a woman, especially queer, photographer of the female nude.

We also highlight the importance of authenticity in the depiction of female sensuality, and of accurately shaping our own image (as women). In her words, “women can’t be heard if we can’t be seen.”

Conversation Highlights

  • Her transition from photojournalism to law to photography of the female nude

  • The visual representation of women in our society, particularly of the erotic woman

  • Her books “PARIS” and “POLAROIDS”, and the “PHOTOS DE FEMME” organization

Her transition from photojournalism to law to photography of the female nude

Renée shares with us the reasons and circumstances that have shaped her career. She brought in some of the earliest gay rights cases in the US as a successful, young litigator, as a way of “acting out instead of coming out”.

“I dealt with my conflicts about being other-ed” by becoming a lawyer’’

After her exit from working in law, she took out her old photo camera, and thus began a journey of discovery of women through the lens. She also talks about her own journey of self-discovery through the experiences it’s brought, and how her perception of the erotic female nude has transformed from seeming pornographic to beautiful, real and important.

The visual representation of women in our society, particularly of the erotic woman

Renée divulges her insights and opinions on the visual representation of women in our society. We discuss the importance of empowering each other as women, and representing ourselves visually in the most authentic way to avoid being defined by ‘someone else’.

Through anecdotes of women’s revelations during sessions, and what she’d been told by past male mentors, she sheds light on the current landscape in her field of work.

Currently, there is a lack of displayed work by women photographers of the female nude, particularly queer photographers that celebrate the full spectrum of women’s authentic erotic desires, including the depiction of gay women. She shares her excitement in opening that dialogue, particularly at an upcoming exhibition in Barcelona alongside Helmut Newton (the exhibition will be held in April 2022 in Fotonostrum).

Her books “PARIS” and “POLAROIDS”, and the “PHOTOS DE FEMMES” organization

Her third book, PARIS originally came out in 2013 and has been revisited with about “10 to 12 new images swapped for old ones”. She talks about what Paris meant for her personally.

Renée also shares how POLAROIDS contains some of her erotic work, when “some of [her] previous supporters turned critical”, around 100 images from old Polaroid type 55 film.

Photos de Femme is an organization she created with her wife in 2018 with the aim of “redirecting the dialogue around images of women so that women themselves could have more agency and authenticity in photography.”

She shares how excited she is to get back to it and they will do a call for entries for photographers around the world: “We opened it up worldwide to male and female photographers, because for us, the aim was to promote the most empowering images of women no matter where they came from. Women, men, non binary. We wanted to see the most enriching, empowering of women and girls.”

If all these topics speak to you and you need a power boost of inspiration, tune into this episode, or check the transcript you can find here ︎︎︎ [transcript]



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