Photographer and pop culture documentarian, Rennie Ellis boasts a significant portfolio of works, some of which are displayed proudly in Prince Dining Room.
Eye-catching with a strong emphasis on fun, each Rennie Ellis image chosen for PDR evokes a nostalgic spark of envy for days gone by. Juxtapositioning the grit and glamour of the 70s and 80s party culture, Ellis’s images paint a vivid picture of the St Kilda social scene and surrounding suburbs.
Rennie Ellis’s photographic captures are essentially a series of short encounters with the lives of others. They may be straight-forward and blatant as a head-butt or infused with enigmatic subtleties that draw on the nuance of gesture and the significance of ritual, often provoking more questions than they answer.
Debauchery, fun and general mischief form the foundation of the images adorning the walls of PDR, though Ellis’s works are not confined to these categories. Over his 30-year career, his quest for recording the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour took him to locations all over the world. The diversity in his art is intoxicating – he was as much at home photographing Carnival in Rio de Janeiro with all its extroverted sexuality as he was recording the backstage preparations of the celebrated Kirov Ballet.
Well travelled and always in pursuit of the elusive photo, Ellis’s adventures included rowing up the Ganges at Dawn, becoming lost in the souks of Marrakech, embracing the dust and flies of cattle stations on the edge of the Simpson Desert and giving his minders the slip in Shanghai. He had been welcomed to the White House and thrown out of the Moulin Rouge.
It’s been said that the urge to preserve is the basis of all art. When pushed to make a value judgement on his own photography – is it art, social realism, photojournalism or slice-of-life indulgence? – Ellis replied with a quote from the pioneering American photographer Alfred Stieglitz: “Art or not art, that is immaterial – I continue on my own way, seeking my own truth, ever affirming today.”
Passing away in 2003 at the age of 63, Rennie Ellis’s list of achievements is long and storied. We are privileged at The Prince Hotel to be able to display a small collection of his works in Prince Dining Room.
Rennie Ellis 1940-2003
Founder and director of Brummels Gallery of Photography, Australia’s first gallery dedicated to photographs, Ellis published some 17 books. His awards included an Art Directors’ Club Award for Photojournalism and a United Nations Habitat Award for photography; he received a grant from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council. His photographs, widely exhibited in Australia and overseas, are held in collections including the National Gallery of Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for Photography, France’s Bibliothèque Nationale, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Embassy in Beijing, the CUB Malthouse Collection, the ACMP Australian Photographers’ Collection, the Port Phillip Contemporary Visual Arts Collection, the State Library of NSW, the Monash Gallery of Art and private collections in Australia, UK and USA. The National Portrait Gallery exhibition Rennie Ellis: Aussies All, a selection of photographs from Ellis’s archive, was mounted at Commonwealth Place in 2006.