Interviews,  INTERVIEWS

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

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, 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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Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website—— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said. Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London. Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art. Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK. She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: [email protected]


  • Donna Deitch

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

  • Meri Walker

    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!