A Creative Life, Well Lived and Well Observed – Interview with Mobile Photographer – Susan Rennie

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I am inspired by Susan Rennie’s photography, within each image I sense devotion, desire, wit, uncompromising passion and a frantic climax that accumulates as a photographic portfolio of a creative life, well lived and very well observed”.  Joanne Carter, the Founder and Editorial Director of TheAppWhisperer.

Photographs by Susan Rennie

Susan Rennie first became interested in photography in the late 1960’s whilst a doctoral student at Columbia University. Spending many an afternoon roaming the galleries of MOMA, photographing viewers looking at the artwork (there were no restrictions on photographing artwork at that time). As she developed these images in her makeshift darkroom, she realised an epiphany. Her images told stories. As a natural story teller from childhood, she had now, by altering the medium, defined the frame to let the story unfold. 

 

Heavily influenced by a wide range of photographers including Lyon, Frank, Arbus, Kertesz and Friedlander. However, it was after taking an eight week master class with Lisette Model, that Rennie was utterly seduced. The Street Photography seed had been planted.

 

Caught up in the women’s movement and taking her feminist aspirations into academic and women’s health activism, photography with her beautiful Leica’s took second place for many years. However, that changed following retirement and her discovery of mobile photography four years ago. Having read an article in the New York Times about the app Hipstamatic and further sharing of her images via Oggl, Rennie was asked by another Photographer if she had heard of TheAppWhisperer.com, a website that promoted ‘mobile photography’.

 

“TheAppWhisperer rocketed me into that universe of mobile photography. My God! Contributors to TheAppWhisperer guided me through the teeming offerings and provided mini-tutorials on usage” Rennie exclaimed. Following this explosion of knowledge, Rennie, “joined the revolution, [I] put away my “big girl” cameras and lenses, and luxuriated in walking about with my camera, studio, and darkroom in my pocket”. 

The aesthetics of Rennie’s street photography are heavily influenced by Lisette Model’s work and teaching. The ‘up close and personal’ approach of Model’s style arouses Rennie’s creativity, inspired by “the irony, the humor, the pathos, the bravado of the human condition with an intensely empathetic connection with her subjects”. Rennie contrasts this with work from Model’s most famous student, Diane Arbus. “There’s no sense of humiliation or cruelty or separation in Model’s powerful images; and, I hope, these are the values that inform my choices of the quick candid photograph, the snapshot, which is street photography”. 

When looking retrospectively at her images, Rennie explains that she enjoys “the sense of whimsy that I see in many quite disparate subjects, an antidote for me to the pain, grief, and misery that colors so much of our world. Even when I photograph a “dark” subject I seem to find redemptive aspects in the story; for example, the homeless woman sitting in front of the chimera mural. She may exude anger, but it’s balanced by the strength and determination in her look”. 

Two images that particularly stand out for Rennie as favourites are “The Man in the White Suit,” and” Fellow Travelers.”  She explains, “What I prize about the first is how the camera renders a very distinctive subject almost invisible through the juxtaposition of color. In the second I am moved by the powerful relationship of two companions, canine and human, brought out in a quite prosaic activity”. 

(Footnote: MOMA included several of Susan Rennie’s images in their 1970 Annual Report.) 

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2 thoughts on “A Creative Life, Well Lived and Well Observed – Interview with Mobile Photographer – Susan Rennie”

  1. I’m mesmerized by this photographer’s eye – her ingenuity and empathy. I want to see all her work!

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  2. I couldn’t be more delighted to see this interview with one of my fave mobile photographers, Joanne! Bravo to you, Susan Rennie. You give me reason to live!

    Reply

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