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Renegades rock stars and regular people find a home at State Library Victoria

Credit: Optimist, 1974. New acquisition. Photo by Rennie Ellis.

Media release

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Friday 18 August 2017

State Library Victoria has acquired over 60,000 images by the late maverick photographer Rennie Ellis. Best known for his fly-on-the-wall photography of celebrities, models, nightclubs and Australian suburbia, Ellis was the social documentarian of an era, capturing every slice of Australian life over a thirty-year period.

Over 60,000 prints, negatives, slides and contact sheets are included in the new acquisition, together with iconic images from Ellis’ popular books Life’s a Beach, Life’s a Parade and Railway Stations of Australia.

This new acquisition also signals the completion of the Library’s Rennie Ellis collection. Now comprising over half a million images in total, the Rennie Ellis collection is the largest ever photographic collection acquired by the Library. Combined with Ellis’ extensive manuscript archive, this new addition provides an incredible insight into the life and work of one of Australia’s most prolific social documentarians.

Jo Ritale, State Library Victoria’s Head of Collections said that the State Library is a fitting caretaker for Ellis’ archive.

“Rennie Ellis’ images span an incredible breadth of time and depth of subject matter. From the late 1960s to 2003 he captured Australia at its most extraordinary and its most everyday – whether it was backstage at a drag show, at a party with the rich and famous or down at Victoria Market with a fruit seller – Rennie was there. His archive is unique as it provides a view of the post-war generation in Australia from a photographer completely immersed in the culture he was recording.”

“It has taken over seven years to transfer this historically important collection to the Library, and we’re honoured to be able to preserve it and make it accessible to the people of Victoria.”

Manuela Furci, Director, Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive was delighted that the majority of Ellis’ archive has found a permanent home at State Library Victoria.

“Rennie stated in his will that he wanted State Library Victoria to be the custodians of his archive, and it’s wonderful that this has come to pass. Rennie would be overjoyed to know that his body of work will be preserved for future generations and is now being made accessible to all.”

The new addition to the Rennie Ellis archive is currently being digitised and made available online. Thousands of already digitised images from State Library Victoria’s Rennie Ellis collection can be found in the catalogue.