Berlin-based photographer Spyros Rennt is about to have his first solo show this week. This was the perfect occasion to sit down with him and chat about where he’s at now. After publishing his first book, Rennt is taking “ANOTHER EXCESS” to a new dimension, presenting new images along with some of the books in his new exhibition. This will be the chance to get into Spyros’ world out of the digital sphere, “Let’s get physical!”
KALTLBUT: How do you feel about having your first solo show being presented in Berlin in few days from now?
Spyros: I am really looking forward to it, naturally. The book presentation had a really positive response and this has produced high expectations for the exhibition. I want to present something meaningful that reflects my vision and will please the viewers attending.
KALTLBUT: Can you tell us a bit more about the exhibition?
Spyros: The title of the exhibition is “Another Excess”. This is the name of my first book of photos which I presented/released during the Berlin Art Week in September. The exhibition can be seen as an extension of the book.
The book in itself presents a selection of work from 2017 and 2018. It’s very personal and explores a range of emotions, from tender to raw. It tracks my life, the places I visited, the people who were close to me during that time. I’m a gay man originally from Athens living in Berlin the last 7 years. I go out in the various queer underground parties in the city with pleasure, so there are a few interesting spaces and faces captured in the book. I was out of town traveling quite a bit as well, so there are photos from my adventures in Paris, NY, London, Tbilisi and of course various locations in Greece. But the book feels like a love letter to Berlin the most, which makes sense, since it’s the place I call home.
The exhibition will collect and present some of my favorite moments from the book, in a way that highlights the messages that I am trying to pass with it and my work in general. It’s a book about intimacy, openness and queer/gay contemporary realities with a focus on the male body. These themes will be prevalent in the exhibition.
KALTLBUT: You have a long online history as an image maker. How was the process of cutting down tons of photographs to a few for the book?
Spyros: It’s true that I’ve been sharing personal content online for a while. That said, there was a clear shift around the end of 2016 when I just became more serious about the quality of the work I produced. And the book starts collecting work past that point.
There were indeed a lot of photos to initially choose from. I narrowed them down to a smaller number first and started looking how they would work when paired with each other. It was a bit like solving a math problem.
KALTLBUT: What attracts you from the Berlin party scene?
Spyros: I experience the scene as both a party goer and as a photographer.
It’s a fact that there is nothing like Berlin when it comes to partying. A big part of city’s brand is built on nightlife — and rightfully so. The music is second to none, the clubs are super fun playgrounds, the vibe is anything goes, there are parties for the whole sexuality and gender spectrum. One can meet incredibly interesting people from all over the world (I know I have). Unlike other cities, where there is security personnel policing the space and dictating where to smoke or how many people one goes into the cubicle with, the rules in Berlin are less strict. That’s not to say that Berlin clubs are heaven on earth. They too are getting gentrified, raising their prices, realize that they are offering a highly coveted product and seem to cater to an all too-male demographic.
What is most appealing to me as a photographer is that the clubs and parties are essentially community spaces. It is the life and members of this community that I am trying to document with my work, seen from a personal, sometimes biased perspective (the bias referring to the fact I have my own personal relationships with the members of this community).
KALTLBUT: There is definitely a voyeuristic eye on your work. How do you manage to enter people’s intimacy?
Spyros: I don’t think that it’s so much that I am a voyeur (which I am to an extent) as the fact that my photos feed the viewers’ voyeuristic instincts. I am actually a part of the scenes I document, I participate in them — it just happens that I keep my camera with me and I capture what is happening. There is of course a high level of trust between me and the people I photograph during private times. A lot of the times I willingly avoid photographing the faces because to me that is besides the point; I am documenting an action, a situation, it’s not about the people doing it, like the photo of the 2 boys fucking in my book where you just see a couple of bodies grinding on each other on a bed.
KALTLBUT: You come from Greece and live in Berlin now. You have also lived in San Francisco How will you describe each city’s influence on your work?
Spyros: I think that the places I have lived or still live in have shaped me as a person but not so much as a photographer. This is due to the fact that I have been producing work for the past couple years and not longer.
What influences me are my surroundings, the life that I live and the scenes that I am exposed to, the sociopolitical climate and the work of other artists, contemporary as well those that came before me. I document the queer scene in Berlin because these are my surroundings. I do this consciously, because we live at times where gay/queer visibility matters.
I go to Athens a lot, which is where I come from. When I am there, I am again documenting the queer scene because this type of visibility matters even more there, because LGBT rights and the state of the movement there are not at the same level as they are in Berlin.
KALTLBUT: Which country is more exciting visually speaking?
Spyros: A country that I don’t know is more appealing to me than the one I do. I take a lot of photos in places I have not visited before, so traveling is quite essential to me. That said, sunny places look of course better on film. New York is also a place that I love returning to. Documenting scenes and people there offers me immense pleasure.
KALTLBUT: You always carry your camera with you . What makes you use it? Is it an emotion – a visual – a concept?
Spyros: I do carry my camera with me even when I go to the supermarket. I am triggered by all the things you mentioned and these are the kind of reactions I want my photos to bring to people. I take a lot of photos on impulse, sometimes just for visual purposes, others for personal documentation or because I have smaller or bigger projects that they fit in. Taking the photos is one thing. More important is the context in which I present them. By this I mean that they should be a part of a greater whole.
KALTLBUT: Do you also stage images working with models or is this all unexpected circumstances?
Spyros: I do have a Masculinity Study series where I work with models. This is again not really staged work. It’s more me and another man in a room, me being an observer with a camera. I don’t really direct. You could say that the voyeur comes out more in this work series. It’s also about exploring the personal relationship that I have with the person I am shooting. They don’t have to be a friend before we shoot, but I do try to achieve a level of connection during the time that I photograph them and I want to capture this on film.
KALTLBUT: A book, an exhibition, what is next?
Spyros: I think that the book will be very much a topic in my life going into 2019, it’s hardly 1 month old still. I presented it at the Friends with Books art book fair in Hamburger Bahnhof in October and I really enjoyed it, so I want to take it to more book fairs, as meeting other like minded publishers and creators is quite interesting. Later into 2019, I’d love to create something new because doing the first one was so entertaining and rewarding.
Exhibition wise, after the Berlin solo show, I am taking part in a group show in London in February of 2019. I am also working on scheduling a solo show in Athens. I am trying to be taking everything as it comes and to remain focused on the current agenda.