A young girl and a dog holding a bag in its mouth inside a supermarket.

Girl and Dog in Supermarkert, Toorak Rd. c.1970. New acquisition. Photo by Rennie Ellis.

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.

A shirtless man making the peace symbol outside the National Gallery of Victoria.

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

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.”

A woman walking with a child, "Children unite and make life a game" painted onto a wall.

Children Unite, Sth Melbourne 1974. New acquisition. Photo by Rennie Ellis.

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.

This article has 3 comments

  1. Would you pleas advise if the Rennie
    Ellis collection is exhibited or just held in the archives. It’s all rather unclear.

  2. Hi Julie, there is no Rennie Ellis exhibition at the Library currently, the new images are in the process of being digitised. You can see the images from this collection that have already been digitised here: https://goo.gl/WjxhwB

    There is currently an exhibition of his work at Whitehorse Artspace in Box Hill. You can find out more here:

  3. Pingback: Inside History magazine | What’s New Online: Latest family history records, August 2017

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