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Rennie Ellis: Decade 1970-1980

Rennie Ellis: Decade 1970-1980

Rennie Ellis (1940-2003) is one of those photographers who captured the urban Australian experience of the 1970s and 1980s. Vietnam, the fall of Whitlam, gay and female rights campaigns, the post-hippie push to legalise marijuana; an adventure from Sydney’s Kings Cross to the streets of Melbourne’s Prahran. Rennie Ellis captured the rebellion, excess and debauchery. Prostitutes, policemen, politicians and power trippers. The book Rennie Ellis: Decade 1970-1980 follows the meandering sunlight of Rennie’s camera across the party decade. He followed the never-ending party; the pictures are a result of his obsession with recording life as he experienced it in the raw.

This book was originally a dream project that Rennie had put together over a long period of time. He found funding to produce and a publisher to complete. Yet, despite his publisher admonishing him for the content, it was never completed. His mock-up of Decade sat unrealised. Rennie’s words from that mock-up are in Decade 1970-1980 along with his choice of photographs. The book was further filled out with photographs deemed to be iconic or important to the time and sourced from the “Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive and the State Library of Victoria Rennie Ellis Collection”.

One of my favourite photographs is that cover – Fitzroy Extrovert 1974. I’ve always loved looking at Mirka Mora 1973. And In a Hurry, Flinders Street Station 1980 depicts a young sailor that I recognise from my time in the Royal Australian Navy. He’s familiar, but I never knew his name. He stands with his mother waiting for that time he would have to say goodbye at the station.

What I really did enjoy about this book were Rennie’s words provided as explanation around pictures I’ve been looking at for many years. About how he went to barbecues at his Greek neighbour’s home, before they concreted the entire back yard. The personal photographs made at Rennie’s home. Casually mentioning that Molly Meldrum was in a room at the time. This context provided in Rennie’s words from that original mock-up of Decade have built on what I thought I knew. This increases my appreciation of those images.

It would be difficult to imagine a Rennie Ellis photobook that I didn’t want to own. This one I do. Along with several others that I enjoy flicking through on the lounge on a wet late Autumn evening.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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