Rennie Ellis

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Rennie Ellis
Reynolds Mark Ellis

(1940-11-11)11 November 1940
Died29 August 2003(2003-08-29) (aged 63)
Melbourne, Victoria
Years active1969–2003

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.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Born in the Melbourne beach-side 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. He was offered the position as Melbourne editor for Gareth Powell's and Jack de Lissa's Chance International magazine.[2] He left Monahan Dayman Advertising in 1969 to become a freelance photographer.

His first exhibition and book, formed from work in Kings Cross, Sydney, followed in 1971.[3] A year later he re-established Brummels Gallery, a commercial gallery established in the mid-1950s to exhibit contemporary Modernist Australian painting, sculpture and prints, as 'Brummels Gallery of Photography', above a restaurant of that name in Toorak Road, South Yarra,[2] 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 diverse 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' death his second wife, Kerry Oldfield Ellis, and his assistant, Manuela Furci, have established the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive,[4] and continue to organise exhibitions of his work.[1] These have included Aussies All: Portrait Photography by Rennie Ellis at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra (2006),[2] No Standing, Only Dancing at the Ian Potter Centre in Melbourne (2008), and Kings Cross 1970-1971: Rennie Ellis in Sydney (2017).[5] Ellis' 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' 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).

Books with photographs and/or text by Ellis[edit]

  • Kings Cross Sydney: a personal look at the Cross. Melbourne: Thomas Nelson (Australia), 1971. Co-authored by Wesley Stacey.
  • Sydney in colour. Melbourne: Lansdowne, c. 1971. Photographs by Rennie Ellis and John Carnemolla.
  • Australian graffiti. Melbourne: Sun Books, 1975. Foreword by Ian Turner.
  • Ketut lives in Bali. London: Methuen Children's Books and Sydney: Methuen of Australia, 1976. Text by Stan Marks. Photographs by Rennie Ellis.
  • Australian graffiti revisited. Melbourne: Sun Books, 1979, c. 1975. Co-authored by Ian Turner.
  • Railway stations of Australia. South Melbourne: Macmillan, 1982. Photography by Rennie Ellis. Text by Andrew Ward.
  • We live in Australia. Hove: Wayland, 1982.
  • Life's a beach. South Yarra, Victoria: Currey O'Neil, 1983.
  • Life's a beer. South Yarra, Victoria: Melbourne : Ross Books, 1984.
  • Life's a ball. South Yarra, Victoria: Currey O'Neil:, 1985.
  • The all new Australian graffiti. South Melbourne, Vic., Australia : Sun Books, 1985. Photographs by Rennie Ellis.
  • Life's a parade. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Lothian, 1986.
  • Life's a beach II: the adventure continues. Melbourne: Lothian, 1987.
  • Life's still a beach. South Yarra, Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books, 1998.
  • Up front: funny, filthy, philosophical advice from the T-shirt. South Yarra, Victoria: Hardie Grant Books, 1998.
  • No standing, only dancing. Melbourne : National Gallery of Victoria, c. 2008. Photographs by Rennie Ellis and Susan van Wyk. Essay by George Negus.
  • Decadent: 1980-2000. London, UK: Hardie Grant, 2014; Richmond, Victoria Hardie Grant Books, in association with the State Library of Victoria, 2014.Foreword by Manuela Furci. Essays by William Yang and Robert McFarlane.


  1. ^ a b Peter Wilmoth, "Redefining Rennie", The Age, 12 December 2004. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Elliott, Simon. "Aussies all", Portrait magazine, Issue. 19, 1 March 2006, National Portrait Gallery website, Canberra, Australia. Retrieved 15 February 2017
  3. ^ Martyn Jolly, Celebrating Wesley Stacey and Rennie Ellis' book Kings Cross Sydney: A Personal Look at the Cross, Retrueved 23 June 2017.
  4. ^ About the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. Retrieved 15 February 2017
  5. ^ Kings Cross 1970-1971: Rennie Ellis, Retrieved 20 May 2017.

Further information[edit]

External links[edit]