Rennie Ellis

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Reynolds Mark "Rennie" Ellis (11 November 1940 – 19 August 2003) was an Australian social and social documentary photographer who also worked, at various stages of his life, as an advertising copywriter, seaman, lecturer, and television presenter. He founded Brummels Gallery of Photography, Australia's first dedicated photography gallery, established both a photographic studio and an agency dedicated to his work, published 17 photographic books, and held numerous exhibitions in Australia and overseas. He died after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage at the age of 62.

Born in the Melbourne beachside suburb of Brighton and educated at Brighton Grammar School, Ellis won a scholarship to Melbourne University in 1959. He left during his first year to work as an office boy at Orr Skate & Associates, a Melbourne advertising agency. He subsequently studied advertising at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, but before obtaining his diploma he spent two years travelling the world, having bought his first camera to record his travels, and worked as a seaman en route. By 1967 Ellis was creative director at Monahan Dayman Advertising in Melbourne, but left in 1969 to become a freelance photographer.

His first exhibition and book, formed from work in Kings Cross, Sydney, followed in 1971. A year later he established Brummels Gallery of Photography above a restaurant of that name in Toorak Road, South Yarra, and in 1974 Ellis went on to form Scoopix Photo Library in Prahran, which later became the exclusive Australian agent for New York's Black Star photos. In 1975 he opened his studio, Rennie Ellis & Associates, at the same premises, and operated from there for the rest of his life.

Once established as a photographer, Ellis worked, exhibited and published continuously. Magazines that he contributed to were as varied as Playboy and The Bulletin; his books and exhibitions were on subjects including the beach, beer, graffiti, Australian railway stations and the Rio carnival.

In 1993 he became a co-presenter on the Nine Network's lifestyle program Looking Good, continuing in that role for three years and working with Deborah Hutton and Jo Bailey. In the same year his work was also included in Picture Freedom, an exhibition at The Photographers' Gallery in London.

Since Ellis's death his second wife, Kerry Oldfield Ellis, and his assistant, Manuela Furci, have established the Rennie Ellis Archive, and continue to organise exhibitions of his work. These have included Rennie Ellis: Aussie All, at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra (2006) and No Standing, Only Dancing at the Ian Potter Centre in Melbourne (2008). Ellis's work was included in Candid Camera: Australian Photography 1950s–1970s at the Art Gallery of South Australia (2010) which also featured the work of key Australian photographers Max Dupain, David Moore, Jeff Carter, Robert McFarlane, Mervyn Bishop, Carol Jerrems and Roger Scott.

Ellis's work is held in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Library of Australia (all in Canberra), the National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), and the Art Gallery of South Australia (Adelaide).

References[edit]

  • Elliott, Simon. "Aussies All: Portrait Photography by Rennie Ellis", Portrait magazine, autumn 2006.
  • National Gallery of Victoria media kit "Rennie Ellis – The Artist"
  • National Gallery of Victoria media kit "Rennie Ellis – The Exhibition"
  • Wilmoth, Peter. "Redefining Rennie" The Age, 12 December 2004.