It was the summer of 1970-71 and Kings Cross was going through a golden era of glitzy clubs and glamorous personalities when photographer Rennie Ellis captured what would become iconic images.
The images would form the basis of a key historical archive documenting Australian life, the work of that momentous year documenting Kings Cross – the year of Ellis' first exhibition – is on show at Mossgreen gallery in Sydney as part of the Head On Photo Festival.
"I remember Rennie would describe the Cross as like a 'beehive where queen bee is life itself'. I think that really sums up these images," curator Manuela Furci told Fairfax Media.
"Rennie really got into places that no one normally would have been able to. His camera was like a key to opening doors", Furci said.
Photojournalist Robert McFarlane, a contemporary of Ellis, recalled his work and the times.
"Rennie was truly amazing at capturing sexuality and life in a way that was never vulgar or coarse, but full of humour and vitality."
"It was such an amazing time to be in Kings Cross, I remember seeing Fred Packer at one of the clubs letting off steam … it was a place full of activity but in such a small space. It was mostly crushed into the confines of William Street and Darlinghurst Road."
McFarlane recalled seeing Ellis before the late photographer died unexpectedly in 2003.
"Me and a bunch of contemporary photographers were at the Canberra Portrait Gallery, I remember seeing Rennie and he looked fantastic – tanned, full of life. The thing I will always remember about Rennie was his sense of humour and love of life – he was truly a remarkable person and a great photographer."
In Ellis' own words, Kings Cross had a "pulse rate and a lifestyle unlike anywhere else in Australia".
Furci said times had changed and Kings Cross was now "unrecognisable" to the freedom of Ellis' Cross in the 1970s.
"You look at these images and the question enters your head, what have we lost? Everyone needs to see these photos," Furci said.
Kings Cross 1970-1971: Rennie Ellis is on show at Mossgreen gallery, Sydney, until June 2.