Photography by Spyros Rennt

Renowned for his frank depiction of friendship, desire and sex – the prolific image-maker Rennt has self-published his third photo book, Corporeal

ANOTHER ART & PHOTOGRAPHY: A Spyros Rennt photograph can plunge you, sweating and aroused, into the heart of a night-out. People dance, grab and rub against one another in the dark; others smoke, laugh, make out, and wriggle free of their pants. Few other photographers are able to capture the abandon, eroticism and sheer excess of a rave or house party with the same vital immediacy.

Rennt was a committed clubber before becoming a photographer. After quitting his technical and computer engineering degree in Athens, he relocated to Berlin in 2017, where he bought his first point-and-shoot and began photographing the city’s nightlife. Since then, with the release of three books – the latest being Corporeal – several zines and a sizeable following on social media, he has become one of the most prolific queer photographers working today, renowned for his frank depiction of friendship, desire and sex.

Rennt regularly travels back and forth between Berlin and Athens, taking his camera with him to raves, house parties, parades and fetish events. To call him a ‘documentarian’ of queer communities would over-emphasise what he admits is a fairly laid-back approach, involving a lot of waiting around until he finds his subject. He prefers to consider his photography a “personal document”: a sort-of autobiography of his life and what he calls its “steady cast of characters”.

An avid collector of photo books, Rennt turned to the work of queer photographers like Wolfgang Tillmans when he was first starting out. “Although I don’t think our work is as similar as people say,” he adds. “I’m probably closer to Ryan McGinley, especially the rawness and technical imperfection of his early photos. Of course I love Nan Goldin, although I don’t depict misery like she does.” In his photographs of bodies contorted into strange, tangled shapes there is also a playfulness that seems to me reminiscent of the late American photographer Jimmy DeSana.

While he enjoys shooting natural landscapes and still lives, the majority of his photographs are of friends, lovers and strangers he finds attractive. “I love creating genuinely sexy images,” he says. Rather than concentrating directly on their faces, Rennt adopts a more abstract approach, focusing on basketball shorts and silver chains, white socks and dirty trainers, thick muscle and make-up, to create compositions charged with eroticism. He also has an eye for moments of quiet tenderness away from the crowd. In one photograph, three half-naked men jostle around a speaker; Rennt’s camera focuses on one man who, having toppled to the floor, now sits playfully pushing his head between the thighs of a distracted mate.

Whether shooting models, long-term friends or casual acquaintances, Rennt’s approach remains largely the same: an hour or two alone with them, in his home or theirs, to capture a resemblance that is natural and honest. “I have love for every person in front of my camera,” he explains when I ask him how he takes his portraits. “That’s how I bring out something special about them on film.” One of his favourites features two close friends lifting themselves out of a pool, the chlorinated blue of the water shining against their sun-baked skin and dark chest hair. Like so many of his photos, he says “it’s a dear memory.”

Corporeal by Spyros Rennt

Corporeal is Rennt’s third book, after the release of Lust Surrender in 2020 and Another Excess in 2017. Each of them have been self-published, with all the challenges that involves. Rennt considers photobooks a necessary undertaking, since they require selecting and editing his best photographs. To choose from the thousands of very personal pictures, Rennt has trained himself to “tell the difference between memories that are important to me, but that are perhaps not as powerful artistically”. That judgement, sharpened over the years, is central to his photography.

Those photographs that have made it into Corporeal will awaken memories of losing yourself in a crowd of strangers, feeling unfamiliar bodies next to yours, their heat and stink. “My work is personal but the experience is always universal,” Rennt explains. One of his still-lifes captures a kitchen table top after what looks like an especially raucous evening: Prosecco bottles, half-empty mugs, a blonde wig, and, stood above it all, a lone dildo. “We’ve all been to a messy afters,” he says with a laugh, by way of explanation. His photographs – tender, candid and true – are a tribute to them.

Corporeal by Spyros Rennt is self-published and is out now.

TEXT Alastair Curtis