Provocative photographer, director, co-founder of Dazed and Confused, Rankin has been breaking the rules for over 30 years. This month A new Rankin collection, Unfashionable, showcases the acclaimed photographer’s work from over 30 years of stunning, hyperreal, post-modern image-making. Ali Catterall delves in . . .
“Positive defiance” is how Jefferson Hack describes the attitude inherent in portraits by his Dazed & Confused co-founder John Rankin Waddell, better known as photographer and director, Rankin. That sense of empowerment and humanism is all over this his new collection. Unfashionable, “a title loaded with irony and double-meaning” as Hack says in the book’s afterword, which collects thirty years of images inspired by and related to fashion and beauty.
This being Rankin, nothing’s straightforward here – nor would it be again, following his blazing trail in the 1990s through the pages of Dazed, Vogue and Marie Claire. In portraits like ‘Weep,’ ‘Too Tight,’ ‘Big Girl’s Blouse,’ and ‘Hungry,’ and in his new magazine Hunger (images of which are featured in the first part of the book), he deconstructs fashion and wickedly sends it up, exposing the scarred brickwork and artifice of photography via a very 1990s sort of post-modernism, while simultaneously embellishing it, aiming always to humanise. “He loves people” says Hack. “His humanism stands before his art.” Model and actress Katie Carr, seen here standing among stinking pigs in a pen in super-high wedge Vivienne Westwood shoes, agrees: “His models have a sense of personality, strength, and quirkiness” she says. He was one of the first photographers to use plus-size and older models in shoots, aiming he said, always to hold a mirror up to society, through “humour, roleplay, ritual and tease”.
Interspersed throughout, past collaborators such as models like Abbey Clancy, stylist Katie Grand, makeup artist Andrew Gallimore, and – of course – Kate Moss, recall their experience of working with him and pay tribute to his hyperreal visions. Grand recalls first meeting him in 1992, when he was first trying to get his magazine off the ground (“I hated the name—why would you ever name anything after a Led Zeppelin song?”), while observing his evolution into someone who “wanted to turn the normal perception of what a fashion shoot was on its head.” And this is as much a tribute to a different, perhaps more innocent age when, as Kate Moss says here, “you could make a shoot out of nothing! A bag of clothes, a hairdresser, and a make-up artist.”
Ultimately, there’s a sense of sheer glee in the reminiscences of those who’ve worked with him. As actress Krissy Hawkes says of one particular shoot that wasn’t working out, “… and then Rankin had this vision, and ‘It’s Not What You Wear, It’s The Way That You Wear It’ was born. His enthusiasm was contagious.”
RANKIN: UNFASHIONABLE By Rankin (Rizzoli New York) is out October 2018
This review first appeared in Luxury Plus magazine.