There are some iconic Australian photographs which Aussies instantly recognise as “ours”.  There has long been a debate about whether photography can be considered art – such debate will go on in the future, no doubt. However, Max Dupain’s Sunbather for example is to many, more a work of art than just a snapshot.

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Rennie Ellis was the consummate “happy snapper”… his pictures captured moments in time without staging or artifice and they remain enduring images of the times.  Many shots, like the one above entitled “Sharpies”, were of ordinary people in ordinary places doing ordinary things.

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Others captured iconic personages – like the fabulous shot of Bon Scott snapped back stage in Chicago trying really hard to look taller than the girl he was face to face with (almost!).

Looking at some of his celebrity work, he could have been accused of the same type of photojournalism we see these days carried out by the papparazzi…however, Ellis was known, liked and a part of the celebrity crowd he captured on film.  There was no malice or ulterior motive in his recording of their lives or actions.

His was a complex and layered body of work that will reveal more as time passes and can be more critically assessed.  Rennie Ellis captured the spirit of a people, its time, its place.  His was Art.

This exhibiton is currently at the Ian Potter Gallery, NGV, Federation Square, Melbourne. It runs until February 22, 2009.

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