Rennie Ellis Biography

1940–2003

Rennie Ellis is an award winning photographer and writer with 17 books to his credit. His photographs have been widely exhibited in Australia and overseas and his work has been acquired by various collections including France's Bibliotheque National, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Australian Embassy in Beijing, the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, National Portrait Gallery, Monash Gallery of Art, State Library of Victoria, State Library of NSW, National Library of Australia and private collections in Australia, UK and USA.

Ellis had received grants from the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, won an Art Directors Club Award for Photojournalism and a United Nations Habitat Award for photography. He was the founder and director of Brummels Gallery of Photography, Australia's first photography gallery.

Rennie Ellis saw his photographic excursions as a series of encounters with other people's lives. His photos can be as 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 his images ask more questions than they answer.

Over 30 years his quest for recording the idiosyncrasies of human behaviour has taken him to locations all over the world. 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. At other times, in pursuit of the illusive photo, he had been lost in the souks of Marrakech, rowed up the Ganges at dawn, embraced the dust and flies of cattle stations on the edge of the Simpson Desert and given 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"

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