INTERVIEW: OLGA RODIONOVA AND ELLEN VON UNWERTH

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FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

AN EROTIC FAIRYTALE SIGNED OLGA RODIONOVA AND ELLEN VON UNWERTH

FOLLOWING THE OVERWHELMING SUCCESS OF THE BOOK OF OLGA, RUSSIA’S ANSWER TO GREECE’S VERY OWN APHRODITE, OLGA RODIONOVA, HAS TEAMED UP WITH GERMAN PHOTOGRAPHER ELLEN VON UNWERTH FOR YET ANOTHER JOURNEY INTO THE REALM OF BEAUTY AND DESIRE.

Set in an imaginary world that blends the hurly burly world of Marie Antoinette and the intrigue of Versailles with a touch of Marquis de Sade and the softer side of SM, The Story of Olga offers a wonderful series of both provocative and sensual images that playfully challenge today’s notion of pornography.

Published by Taschen, the book is like a dark fairytale as it follows the sexy adventures of the young widow Olga who, following the death of her wealthy husband, has embraced her lust and inner desires in a quest for pleasure, and love, which she eventually comes to find

in the arms of someone far removed from the riches she has grown accustomed to.

A happy ending for our gorgeous heroine? Well of course. This is a fairytale after all, albeit one in which few clothes are worn.

Star of the show is Olga Rodionova, the super model who, with her pitch perfect body and seemingly endless legs, gives it her all and more. Born in 1975, this Russian “dream come true” has worked with nearly all of the world’s great photographers, including Helmut Newton, David LaChapelle and Peter Lindbergh, and graced the cover of many a magazine. She has never shied away from the nude and naughty. So, she was Playboy’s playmate of the

month no less than four times.

The first time she ever showed the world her all was during a fashion shoot when the photographer suddenly suggested to her to strip. “I thought, ‘Why not?” she told The Guardian. “I was afraid, though, and very uncomfortable. But once you've done it, it becomes normal and you don't think anything of it.”

The Story of Olga however is a whole different ballgame. This is not a few pages in a magazine but a book of “only” 350-pages of Olga, in which the 37-year-old shows off what God gave her. Well, God and a healthy diet, lots of exercise, and a love for belly dancing.

Ever since being a child Rodionova has loved to perform. She initially wanted to be an actress, yet ended up studying management and law, before going into banking and later modeling. Yes Sir, the girl with the body has got brains too.

It is at the bank where she met her later husband, the millionaire Sergev Rodionov who, for his pleasure, hers, and ours, likes to see his wife eternalized in a style that is both arty and erotic. It is apparently not uncommon for the Russian rich and famous to hire a top gun photographer for a private project.

Bettina Rheims, for example, had done about eight such projects before being asked to shoot The Book of Olga. Few or none among the Russian trophy wives

though were blessed with the taste, qualities and allure of a top model like Olga.

Olga’s return, The Story of Olga, was photographed by Ellen von Unwerth. A former model, she gained fame as a photographer with a shoot of Claudia Schiffer in the early nineties. She has a reputation for having created a new feminine eroticism and her work has been regularly published by the game’s big names, including Vogue and Vanity Fair. She also has numerous books under her name.

For The Story of Olga, Von Unwerth worked with a team of artists including Britain’s Anna Trevelyan, a young and upcoming stylist who was responsible for creating the dark yet beautiful, sensual yet sexually-charged style,

and French set designer Fabienne Eisenstein, who was among other things responsible for creating the pagan rituals and dinner scenes at the castle in which most of the adventures unfold.

If you are interested in seeing every detail of Olga, you may want to hurry. Like its predecessor The Book of Olga, the sequel The Story of Olga comes in a limited edition of only 1,000 copies numbered and signed by Ellen von Unwerth.

Sergey and Olga hope their books will one day occupy a place in the history of art, and the signs are they may very well do exactly that. The duo also hopes to continue doing these kinds of projects for several years to come. For what it is worth, we do too.

Being behind bars is one of Russia’s national sports, all distinguished people are used to do it.

WE ARE THRILLED DELIGHTED TO SEE YOU RETURN WITH NEW ADVENTURES IN THE STORY OF OLGA. IN A NAUGHTY NUTSHELL, WHAT MAY WE EXPECT?

I can repeat the phrase of our famous publisher- Benedikt Taschen - when he saw the first print copy - It is f***ing amazing! You may choose the word you like best.

IN ONE OF THE IMAGES WE SEE YOU BEHIND BARS. NEED WE BE WORRIED?

No, being behind bars is one of Russia's national sports, all distinguished people are used to do it.

MAY WE CALL YOU A MODERN DAY MARQUIS DE SADE?

No, I am not the writer. Call me a modern Agnes Sorel.

IN THE FIRST BOOK, YOUR “PARTNER IN CRIME” WAS BETTINA RHEIMS. IN THE SECOND ELLEN VON UMWERTH. BOTH ARE CELEBRATED PHOTOGRAPHERS. DID YOU NOTICE ANY MAJOR DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY THEY WORK?

Yes, Bettina is more sharp and rough, Ellen is more feminine and mild.

DO YOU THINK THE SAME BOOKS COULD HAVE BEEN PRODUCED BY A MAN? WOULD YOU CONSIDER WORKING WITH A MAN?

I worked with Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, David LaChapelle, Terry Richardson, just to mention the best known, and for sure I can work with a male photographer on a new book.

WILL WE SEE YOU RETURN FOR A THIRD ADVENTURE? AND, IF SO, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS WHERE THAT MAY LEAD YOU?

I do but prefer that it would be a surprise.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE EROTIC LITERATURE?

Vis and RAmin by Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani.

SUPPOSE, GOD FORBID, YOU HAVE TO SPEND ONE YEAR ON AN UNINHABITED ISLAND. THERE IS FOOD AND WATER IN ABUNDANCE, BUT YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BRING ALONG ONLY FIVE THINGS. WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

Man, mirror, hairbrush, scissors, toothpaste.

FINALLY, WE HAPPEN TO HAVE A MASKED BALL AT PLASTIK NEXT MONTH. IF YOU WERE ABLE TO MAKE IT, WHAT WOULD YOU WEAR?

A mask and a drop of perfume will do, if you dare.

 INTERVIEWED BY PETER SPEETJENS

ArtEli Rezkallah