Carol Jerrems, Mozart St. 1970 © Rennie Ellis

Carol Jerrems exhibition at NGA

When Rennie Ellis founded Brummels - the first photography gallery in Australia - in December 1972, he officially opened the gallery with the exhibition Two Views of Erotica that showcased works by Henry Talbot and the then relatively unknown photographer, Carol Jerrems.  

For Jerrems, photography had a crucial social role: 'the society is sick and I must help change it'.  She produced a body of photographs that symbolized the hopes and aspirations of the counter-culture in Australia in the 1970s.

Sadly, Jerrems fell ill in 1979 with Budd-Chiari syndrome - a rare blood disease. She died on 21 February 1980 without having reached her 31st birthday. Back then, Rennie Ellis sensed that she also died of "a broken heart”.

Carol Jerrems is now lauded as one of Australia’s most prominent photographic artist. The National Gallery of Australia, who holds an extensive archive of Jerrems' work, will stage an exhibition of her photographs dating from 1968 to 1978.

The exhibition opens at the NGA on 25 August 2012 and runs until 28 January, 2013.

For more information: National Gallery of Australia

Rennie Ellis took this photograph of Carol Jerrems in her bedroom in the house she shared with fellow photographers in Mozart Street, St.Kilda in 1970.


Alain Chapel, Jacques Reymond with Mietta O'Donnell at Mietta's Restaurant Melbourne 1987

Gusto! A culinary history of Victoria

3 August 2012 — 28 April 2013

State Library of Victoria
Keith Murdoch Gallery
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Gusto! will feature a cornucopia of gastronomic treasures drawn from the collections of the State Library of Victoria, some items from the National Archive and the Art Gallery of Ballarat, as well as loans from corporate collections such as Kraft and Carlton United Breweries. The fabulous array of items on display will include the first Australian cookbook, published in 1864; Mietta O’Donnell’s handwritten recipes; and even an original World War I army biscuit, which has been in the Library’s collection for 60 years. The exhibition includes a selection of photographs from the Rennie Ellis Collection now held at the State Library of Victoria.

There has never been a better time to explore, consider and question our relationship to food and drink. Gusto! delves deeply, covering a wide range of subjects such as the history of viticulture in Victoria, Indigenous foods, sustainable food practices such as gleaning and backyard gardening, fine dining and food rationing, and the impact of immigration upon Victoria’s culinary landscape. The exhibition also features the stories of some leading Melbourne food identities, chefs, restaurateurs and food writers, noted for their culinary connections to Victoria, such as Jacques Reymond, Rita Erlich, Guy Grossi and Stephanie Alexander.

Gusto! will be complemented by a full program of events and activities including tours, panel discussions, curator talks, a comedy debate, special food events and children’s activities.

Gusto! is sure to have something for all tastes. Don’t miss it.
Savour the rich culinary history of Victoria in this free exhibition.

Red Baron Regulars, Kings Cross 1970-71

Flashback: 160 years of Australian Fashion Photos

13 August 2012 — 29 December 2012

State Library of New South Wales
Macquarie St, Sydney N.S.W

The glamorous story of Australian fashion photography is revealed in Flashback: 160 years of Australian Fashion Photos, a new display opening at the State Library of NSW.

Flashback showcases an exquisite collection of over 30 beautiful and iconic images
from the State Library’s unrivalled collection, with images ranging from mid 19th century hand-coloured portraiture through to contemporary fashion shots.

“Each image represents a significant chapter in Australian fashion photography
history, featuring key moments such as the 1950s appearance for David Jones by American Carmen Dell'Orefice who, now at 81, is the world’s oldest working supermodel.” says Margot Riley, curator and State Library fashion expert.
Images of iconic Australian catwalk pioneers June Dally Watkins and Maggie Tabberer, budding actress Nicole Kidman and former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins are also featured. Photographers range from amateurs through to well-known shooters like Helmut Newton, Lewis Morley and Rennie Ellis.

Bon Scott, Moorabbin Town Hall 1974

AC/DC Australia’s Family Jewels exhibition tours to the United States!

After an extremely popular Australian tour and an international  success at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, the exhibition AC/DC Australia’s Family Jewels is currently being showcased at Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle until September 2012

Lady Medina, The Ritz St Kilda 1977

Recent Exhibition This Is The Show: Rennie Ellis

10 February 2012 — 3 March 2012

Mossgreen Gallery
310 Toorak Road
South Yarra, Victoria

Rennie Ellis was always drawn to photographing bizarre, erotic and eccentric human performance. This accomplished Melbourne photographer captured extravagant visions of strippers strutting their stuff on stage or relaxing behind the scenes. Performers of what we now see as Burlesque became a central theme in Ellis exploring his vision of women. In diverse settings in Australia and internationally - from seedy underground nightclubs in New York - to the feathers and sequins of Les Girls, Kings Cross or The Ritz, Melbourne - Ellis affectionately captured spontaneous, unabashed nudity as exotic female dancers either entertained their well dressed guests or were seen preparing to go onstage. What separates Ellis from other chroniclers of this demi-monde is a very personal vision of humanity - his unique way of seeing that questioned contemporary notions of sexuality, personal identity and the elusive nature of female beauty.

From 'Oz Photo Review' (

Of Serpents and Marooned Maidens, at MOSSGREEN
The photographs of Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) are making a welcome return to their public, this time at MOSSGREEN Gallery in Melbourne on February 10th, with an exhibition mischievously named T.I.T.S. "This Is The Show" which references the dark days in Melbourne when nightclubs could only legally advertise adventurist strip shows by using initials only - which collectively might then suggest something else entirely. In this spirit MOSSGREEN, with the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive are presenting a selection of Ellis's affectionate, unsentimental observations of a vibrant Australian subculture from four decades ago. It was my pleasure, as a friend and contemporary of Rennie Ellis, to contribute this short essay for the invitation to visit MOSSGREEN Gallery.
For the last four decades of the Twentieth Century, Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) was a deeply influential figure in Australian photography, sometimes impolitely but always affectionately drawing our attention to the dreams and fables revealed in his observation of everyday lives. Ellis was an unsentimental ‘eye’ watching profound changes flowing through Australian society – and nothing drew his gaze more potently than the emergence of eroticism, or sometimes simply nudity – in public. Rennie Ellis didn’t only photograph women nude – sometimes men appeared in his pictures, impressive in their musculature - but never with the mythic power he would reveal in the unclad forms of women. There is one photograph in this suite of images that suggests, beyond its considerable narrative documentary strength, what women may have meant as subjects for the elegant, genial and always acutely observant presence that was Rennie Ellis. In Spring Luncheon 1992” thirteen men stand around a circular restaurant dinner table. Dressed conservatively in business suits and ties, all gaze, except one, toward an almost totally nude blonde woman sitting on a white table cloth in the middle of their beer bottle-strewn table. They seem bemused by the good luck that has propelled this beautiful young woman out of the kind of mythology that once created Botticelli’s “Venus” - onto their table – leaving her smiling at Ellis like a mischievous mermaid found trapped in a fishing net. Ellis instinctively contrasts the perfection of the young woman’s form with the mundanity – even impotence – of the men’s’ stances as they seem helpless to do little more than marvel at her beauty – and its close proximity with the province of dreams.
The mythic alliance between women and serpents is also strongly implied in Snake Woman, Kings Cross 1970-71, the only photograph in which Ellis’s focus is capable of being deflected from sharply rendering female nudity, as his camera instead focuses on the flat, malevolent head of a python as the serpent tries to pull away from the dancer. Rennie Ellis also finds a casual counterpoint to women’s roles as erotic dancers in observations such as “Backstage Dressing Room, The Ritz, St Kilda 1977” where nudity, and by inference eroticism, are only incidental to this beautifully observed moment expressing the close fellowship women find when working together. Ellis’s pictures are present in this exhibition almost exclusively in black and white, a documentary medium that suits his direct, sometimes pungent observations well. There is, however, one impressive exception.  By observing My Bare Lady, The Ritz, St Kilda 1977 in colour, Ellis achieves an almost Degas-like delicacy, momentarily dismantling any preference I might have felt for his black and white images. In showing  T.I.T.S.“This is the show … by Rennie Ellis”, Mossgreen Gallery offer a vivid, revealing segment of the extraordinary archive created by Rennie Ellis, of which the National Gallery of Australia’s Senior Curator of Photography Gael Newton once said, “the record will speak for itself over time … as it (the archive) ages it will surprise us with its depth and significance.”

©Robert McFarlane 2012