Though social media has normalized the concept of sharing our private selves with perfect strangers, it’s still shocking to see artists using Instagram as a means for genuine self-actualization. Such is the case with Spyros Rennt, the provocative Berlin-based photographer whose urge to document his life and artistic community led to a permanent career change. “Let’s just say that it’s been a long journey toward finding the thing that makes me happy,” says Rennt, who, in 2011, left behind a computer engineering job in his native Greece and relocated to Berlin. Now in his mid-30s, Rennt views photography not only as his vocation, but as a way to digest the day-to-day world around him. “A big part of my work is produced by me just being out and about and living my life,” he says. Shot on film in a vérité style, Rennt’s images capture murky dance floors, dimly lit backrooms, and an abundance of young, uninhibited bodies, many of them naked. Sex and sexuality figure prominently, but much like his photographic forebear Nan Goldin, it’s the intimacy between the subjects—and Rennt’s obvious affection for them— that elevates the work into art.
Though Rennt maintains a strong presence on Instagram, he considers his uncensored, non-algorithm’ed, self-published hard-copy zines the best way to engage with his work. His most recent zines, non essential #1 and #2 (the latter was released this past summer), are filled with cocks, cum shots, and hazy party tableaus, but there is also a diversity of bodies and gender expressions on display, evoking a spirit as convivial as it is carnal. Due largely to the pandemic, the newest series is less focused on public spots than private interiors—crowded kitchen dance-floors, couches piled with naked bodies, overstuffed bedrooms. And yet, Rennt’s images don’t seem engineered to shock; there is love and protection in the way his subjects drape themselves around each other. It’s a sensibility that, according to Rennt, mirrors a current shift in identity. While gay culture and nightlife still remain strictly codified in most of the world’s big cities, Berlin stands as a polysexual bellwether in terms of how a younger generation of queer-identifying people choose to engage.
“Berlin is at the forefront of queer culture,” Rennt says. “You see more people just being themselves, no longer trying to sell an image of masculinity that’s just so problematic. I perceive queerness as something that makes people get in touch with their softer and more sensitive side.” It’s an approach that he hopes changes how his audience views his sexually frank images. “I don’t like the term ‘sex party,’ because it’s a very gay male thing,” he says. “There’s this essence of oppressive masculinity. The parties I like to go to, the best gatherings, are the ones where sex might happen, but it’s not a must. Instead, there are girls there and people are dancing, and maybe someone is fucking on the bed, but there are straight people, too. It’s just about a gathering of the community. It’s about freedom.”
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