The photographer captures the norm-defying power of the LGBTQ+ experience in his stirring new photobook Corporeal
“In Rennt’s photography, the body becomes an abstraction of itself in its extremity. It’s at once gendered and genderless, dominant and submissive, aroused and inert. We, the viewers, are held captive in this balancing act,” Maia Kenney writes in her foreword to Corporeal, Spyros Rennt’s latest, self-published book. In this publication, the Athens-born, Berlin-based photographer explores queer desire through moments of joy, intimacy and excess.
Following the release of Another Excess (2018) and Last Surrender (2020), Rennt’s third monograph takes his insider’s view of the LGBTQ+ community into new territory. If his previous books testified to his uncompromisingly raw, unstaged approach to image-making, Corporeal holds up a mirror to the evolution of Rennt’s creative practice by bringing together a series of images characterised by a more refined approach.
Here, the body takes centre stage. Whether documented against the breathtaking natural beauty of Rennt’s native Greece or in the sweat-drenched underground nightclubs recurring throughout his photographic work, a “corporeal” energy pervades each page.
“The first image that comes to mind when I close my eyes and think of Corporeal is certainly the one on its cover,” Rennt tells Dazed in an extensive conversation over email. “The names I give to my projects – especially to my monographs – are quite essential to me. And, in this case, the inspiration came from experimental, electronic British band Broadcast – one of my all-time favourites – and their 2005 track ‘Corporeal’, so the melody of the song always plays in my head whenever I glance at the photographs in this book.” Sung by Trish Keenan, the lyrics of the track hint at our humanity as well as the more animalistic sides of our nature; an idea that sits at the heart of Rennt’s deeply instinctual photography.
Apart from a few exceptions dating from pre-Covid times, the images mostly span from the start of 2020 until the present day, capturing different sides to the queer experience. “Queer people set themselves aside from the mainstream precisely for the way in which we approach self-expression and defy the norms surrounding appearance and sexual behaviour,” Rennt says. “Documenting these patterns comes naturally to me because I am an active part of the scenes I immortalise, yet my goal is to present these instances to the outer world, contributing to the visibility of the community in my own personal way.”
However he’s photographing them, Rennt’s subjects are, first and foremost, his safety net, his closest friends. “Corporeal is very much an autobiographical book,” he says. “It is a visual diary detailing the highlights of these past three years: the many moments of joy, the new faces that entered my life, the nights out and excesses, the quiet moments with my partner.”
Out of the 150 photographs featured in the book, three are especially significant for the photographer. “There is this image of a very messy kitchen table from the first house party I went to in the summer of 2020, when Covid restrictions had just begun to loosen up but clubs were still shut down; I carry lots of lovely memories from that day, including the fact that I met my partner at that party – definitely a case of ‘finding love in a hopeless place,’” Rennt says. The two other images he is particularly attached to stand for warmth, community and connection. “The first one is a photograph I shot of my friends Thanos and Aimilios swimming in the Amorgos sublime, gorgeous waters, while the second one is a flashed-out picture of my friends Elliott and Antigone on a dark, Athenian balcony looking like 1980s goth icons.”
Speaking about the vision behind his new monograph, the Berlin-based image-maker explains that all that mattered to him was that queer people could see themselves and their lives reflected in his photographs. “There is a certain universality to the queer experience today,” he says. “Intimacy, sexual thirst and excess are consumed in similar ways across all continents, and I like to think that is the reason why my work resonates with people the way it does.”
Corporeal by Spyros Rennt is self-published and is out now.