Spyros Rennt’s Bodily Images of Queer Desire

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Photography by Spyros Rennt for The BitterSweet Review
Photography by Spyros Rennt for The BitterSweet Review

“I wanted the series to feel like entering a darkroom: you can’t see the faces of the people around you,” says the Berlin-based photographer of his corporeal new images featured in The BitterSweet Review

In Spyros Rennt’s photographs, queer noctural activities – dance, sex and play – all prevail. In the Greek-born, Berlin-based photographer’s images of young people wrapped in reverie, the borders between bodies wane. Rennt recently shot a portfolio of images for the inaugural issue of the queer literary magazine The BitterSweet Review, and doing justice to the release’s main theme of ‘Let’s Get Physical’, his pictures represent a celebration of corporeal joy. They capture bodies entangled with one another, or autonomous in their assumption of desire. The artist’s lens stands just close enough to embody the radiating intimacy; his vicinity does not interfere with the subjects’ concocted harmonies.

“I marvel at the different shapes the body can take, by stretching, bending or even just by being, and the possibilities truly become endless when one works with more than one body,” Rennt tells AnOther. “If I see something I like and it’s part of a series of movements, I won’t be shy about asking the models to repeat it if we are in a controlled environment or at the studio.”

Playful, mischievous or even precarious, the models’ gestures allude to a familiar letting go under nightclub lights or acts of roughhousing that carve their way into sex – and for the artist, these blink-and-you-miss-it moments are those that brim with potential and precision: “What looks like a fleeting moment can actually be a carefully constructed image and I think that this illusion is a beautiful thing about photography.”

Juggling fine art photography and editorial work for titles such as Dazed and The Face lends itself to Rennt’s practice through a precise conduction between light and the body. Gestures hold a vivid clarity that renders the flesh raw and immediate. When a young man carries another over his shoulders, the details of the lifted man’s body remain stark, from the dirt over his soles to his anus, slightly visible between his buttocks that rest over his friend’s mighty shoulders. “Light provides the clarity I felt was necessary to highlight the subjects [the bodies] and their various shapes,” Rennt added. “Even the scenes where the bodies are merging together are well lit, be it with natural or artificial means, so that the viewer can appreciate the forms.” 

While the forms vary – from romantic to intense – they unite in their subjects’ anonymity. Unlike most of Rennt’s work in fine art and editorial, the photographs in The BitterSweet Review omit the models’ faces. Hiding their gaze from ours, they assume the power of a potential, of being anyone and no one at the same time. The bodies ask us to invest in their wholeness in posture and their commitment to contort and interlock. “Since the theme I was given was physicality, it was a conscious decision of mine to display the body,” Rennt says. “But I wanted the series to feel like entering a darkroom: you can’t see the faces of the people around you, but it’s also of less importance, experiencing their bodies is what you are there for.” 

While darkness lives outside Rennt’s lens in these images, the Berlin nightlife has changed the route of his photographic practice. “Nightlife has been a big part of my work from early on, because nightlife is a big part of my life in Berlin; the experiences the city offers and the openness of its people are unique,” he said. “I don’t have formal training as a photographer and doubt I would have had the urge to become one had I been living elsewhere.” 

The BitterSweet Review is available via Antenne Books.