photographing the surprising normality of berlin's sex parties
In Spyros Rentt's photographs, a cock ring looks as normal as a napkin holder.
All photos courtesy of Spyros Rennt
This article originally appeared on i-D Germany
Growing up as part of Greece's sexually suppressed middle-class, Berlin-based photographer Spyros Rennt got to experience first-hand the trauma carried by the country's queer community. His personal liberation did not come until he quit his office job, moved to Berlin and began to photograph his life.
Another Excess, is a collection of snapshots of Rennt's friends, ex-lovers and current sex acquaintances. In the book, he arranges a photo of a fancy restaurant visit next to pictures of bondage-straps; a wedding table next to the picture of a man masturbating. Then he devotes a double page to a plate of Schnitzel. In this way, what society could define as "excess" almost becomes a peripheral matter that gives space for the everyday. A cock ring suddenly feels as normal as a napkin holder.
We got in touch with Spyros to talk about his latest series.
i-D: “What does a dick do?” I took this question from your book's introduction and thought I'd point it at you.
Spyros Rennt: A dick is the origin of life. We all come from something that came out of there. But honestly, I am still looking for that answer too. My book isn’t necessarily only about the male body. Even though lust is an important part of Another Excess, I do explore the tenderness in the relationships that I form with men. It’s a kind of self-analysis.
How often do you experience "excess"?
Lately, I have been trying to cut down on the partying, because I have been more focused on work. The thing with living in Berlin however is that you just have to step out of the door if you want to experience "excess". I live here, I go out, and I have fun.
Do you think Berlin will continue to be this queer paradise for years to come?
Berlin is still an amazing place where people can free themselves. Capitalism, gentrification, and the general increase of living costs are big problems and of course they affect the queer community. My crush with Berlin ended when I moved here however. You still have to deal with administrative paperwork and stand in line in the supermarket here. Such banalities probably have nom place in paradise.
What role do politics play in your work?
An important one. I want to be out there and capture queer and gay spaces to generate visibility. In a sense, my book is a shoutout to the global queer culture which to me is very important.
Detractors could say that what you are depicting in Another Excess is a cliché – Berlin, drugs, sex.
We all have a body and want to feel and experience things with this body. I never took a lot of drugs and generally don’t find anything really addictive. I’m not interested in documenting drug use – in the whole book you can’t find a single photo that shows someone consuming even though I took many photos in nightclubs. What I want to show is the euphoria and ecstasy that comes naturally. Another Excess is about beauty, not a moody Tuesday comedown.
Were you actively involved in the scenes depicted in your photos even though you aren't in any of them?
Even though I’m not present in the photos, I’m very much participating in every scene. I’m not just an observer. I always carry my camera with me, so I only have to distance myself for a brief moment, take the shot, and immediately go back to being part of the event. There’s this one photo of two guys having sex in a bed – how on Earth could I not be a part of it? This series is a personal story of mine, which I’m now sharing with the world.
Your work is not really made for social media, especially Instagram. Does that have any effect on your creativity?
Instagram is a bit like a prison in a sense that there are rules and penalties. You know you’re not allowed to show dicks, tits and shockingly no pubes, either. In the end, it kind of makes sense. How many people would need to be hired to sit in an office and rate if something’s porn or art? Straight men are pigs – can you even imagine what would go down if there weren’t any rules on Instagram? There are so many disturbing images out there!
Another censorship authority are parents. What do your parents think about your book?
In Greece, many queer people carry some kind of trauma. Today old fashioned morals have loosened a bit, but it’s still a pretty conservative society highly influenced by Christianity. But when I was 19 and told my parents that I’m gay, it wasn’t an issue. I could always live my life the way I wanted. My parents support me and just want me to be happy.
Regardless, I haven’t shown them my book. But they somehow know what it’s about. Recently my mum said: “Now that you got this project out of your system, you can maybe start photographing beautiful things – I think it’s enough with the dicks.”
Scroll down for more photos. You can buy 'Another Excess' here .