If you google the keyword honesty, it describes a quality of always telling the truth. Or in other words, not telling the untruth in any form. Honesty is based on trust and understanding, and perhaps a little touch of discipline. Honesty is a promise and a virtue that we highly value. One who shows us how to capture this quality and what it feels like to be true and not hide is photographer Spyros Rennt. We had a little interview with him and talked about his new book LUST SURRENDER.
How are you? What did you do before sitting down for the interview?
I’m in Athens, my hometown for an extended (due to corona) christmas/year’s end break. I just had a great mom-cooked lunch.
Before we talk about your current book, let’s have a quick look at you. When did you start taking pictures?
I’ve had an on again / off again relationship with photography since my late teens but it wasn’t until the end of 2016 that I properly and consciously started to create a photographic body of work to be shared with the world.
How much does living in the cultural melting pot that is Berlin influence your work and your style?
I don’t think I would have ended up a photographer had it not been for my moving to Berlin. I am thankful for its affordability, its unique characters and for showing me that alternative ways of life can indeed be sustainable.
Reading interviews and articles about you, buzzwords like provocation, inhibition, sexuality come up over and over again. Our first inspiration actually was the word freedom. How would you describe your own photographic style?
The beauty of photography (and art in general) is that it can have multiple interpretations. I would use the adjective honest to describe my style; it’s actually a form of therapy for me. I am not so good with words as I am when I am using a photographic camera. It’s the tool that allows me to document my observations and share my experiences.
On one hand, your pictures seem as casual and innocent as an apple pie on Sunday afternoon. And on the other hand they are very intimate, very sexual and unsparing. What attracts you to that mix?
It’s important to me to produce these different types of images. The steamy sex scene and the empty plates after a dinner. A car crash next to two people dressed up on a night out. I enjoy placing them next to each other in spreads in my publications and I think that they actually compliment each other, the “quiet” next to the “loud”. I have no interest to be known just for the sex images. My observations are diverse and this translates to the imagery I put out to the world.
In general, what is important to you in your pictures?
Technicality is not a priority. I want to create pictures that stay in people’s minds. Depending on the type of image, the mood that I want to convey and the reaction I want to get differs. It’s nice when people look at my images of queer joy and state that they wish to be there. Or when an erotic scene actually gets people aroused. But equally successful is when a picture of a father holding his child transmits a melancholy to the viewer.
Why this tough realism?
This is the type of photography that attracts me the most as a viewer, so this is what I try to create as well. It’s not always as tough as it seems though! And that’s the beauty of the medium, how the situation that was captured was actually less moody or less erotic that what is perceived.
You have published a new book, LUST SURRENDER. And we love it. What is it about?
It’s a selection of images from years 2017 through (early/post covid) 2020 of my life. I tried to tell many stories with this book. They center around my experiences (naturally) but expand in a way that makes a statement about the way (or ways) queer youth lives their life (or used to, pre covid at least!)
How do you approach your pictures? Do you have a theme that you follow? Or do you always have your camera with you and document what happens to you in everyday life?
I do have a camera with me pretty much everywhere I go. I tell myself I should give myself a break sometimes but then I’ll be at the supermarket and see something that catches my eye and will then feel sad I didn’t document it, so I do try to always carry my camera with me. I am very democratic with the images I produce and treat all equally, no matter if they were shot in a nightclub or my mom’s kitchen.
Let’s talk about Safe Space – Container Love’s main topic this winter: What is a Safe Space for you? And do you think it is important in today’s world and for the queer community?
A safe space is a space where every person can express themselves freely – with respect to the other humans present of course. This type of queer expression does not always fall in line with the expectations of the mainstream society we live in, which makes the existence of such spaces absolutely vital. Is it any wonder that a lot of our queer siblings had difficulty dealing with the closure of the clubs due to corona? The clubs are some kind of sanctuary, places where people can escape the sometimes oppressive reality that surrounds them.
Many of your pictures are created at and around parties. Clubs are actually a safe holy place where you can let yourself go. In many of them, photography is not allowed. How do you experience this? Do you take the photos secretly?
Certain parties in Berlin used to hire me to work as a photographer and document the people and the vibe in their spaces, which always felt very flattering of course. That said, all photos taken came after I would get permission from the people depicted, a lot of the times we’d have to shoot without having any people in the background (who might not want to be photographed by accident). I am always very discreet when I shoot a party anyway. I am mostly interested to capture the people I already know and the possibly interesting situations they might find themselves in. It’s hardly in my interest to be some kind of queer party paparazzi.
Let’s bring the two topics together – your book and Safe Space. Do your models know that they are in your book? And is it okay for them to have their pictures taken in their most intimate moments?
All models featured on my book (the ones who can be recognized) are aware of it and have given me their consent. Regarding me shooting them in intimate moments: with some people I had to work to build this trust, other people are more relaxed about it. There were also images I wanted to use in the book but ended up not using because the models depicted did not give their permission. It’s all fair for me.
Some of your pictures are rather sexual and explicit. How important is sex and physical intimacy as a motif for you as a photographer?
What’s important to me as a photographer is a documentation of intimacy and vulnerability. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by people who appreciate and support the work that I do and allow me to capture them in various moments of their life, sexual moments included. Besides, a lot of the sex scenes I document are scenes that I am also a part of. As I mentioned already, I am interested in producing a variety of images. I could never imagine myself only shooting naked people or people having sex. At the end of the day, I think that this is also reflected in my publications.
Corona changes the world, and so do we. How do you currently find inspiration and motifs when clubs and festivals are shut down?
Clubs and festivals, especially the ones in or around Berlin (like Whole festival) are indeed great for someone who documents queer life like I do. People in Berlin however, did not really stop getting together during the pandemic. Especially during the summer, that infection numbers were at their lowest, I experienced some really great house parties, where I ended up producing some images that I am quite fond of, and which became the backbone of the “non-essential” zines that I released last July.
Container Love has been exhibiting a lot at music and art festivals in the past years. Will you be with us when our Pop Up Container starts rolling through the world again after the pandemic? And will you bring your camera?
I am looking forward to reconnecting to the world in all sorts of ways post covid! All you need to do is extend an invitation and I will be there 🙂
Photos © Spyros Rennt