Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Rankin Live Talk

It can be challenging to hear someone as famous as the renowned  photographer Rankin without preconceived ideas because so much has already been written about him and his work is so widespread that you cannot avoid having mixed feelings about it.


But it's important to get rid of all the information and just focus on the moment facing the person with an open mind. Speaking at V&A last night, Rankin mentioned this approach when working with celebrities. "I wash myself of any preconceptions of what famous people are going to be like because they are never as the media say."

Since launching Dazed & Confused magazine with Jefferson Hack in the early 90's, Rankin has become one of the most acclaimed photographers, having created iconic images of David Bowie, Kate Moss and even the Queen.

But despite coming a long way you can sense a youthful rebel kid who continues to follow his gut instinct and making it up as he goes along. Usually if you have an idea, you do your market research and you write a business plan with detailed targets. Not Rankin. "I do things I want and expect people to like it." 

Obviously not everyone has this ability of tuning into the zeitgeist, this seems to be an inborn quality of great creative minds. He followed the evolution of photography by embracing new technologies, referring to them as "a set of tricks that enables people to look in whatever way you want them to look."

My signed book!

Rankin Live also draws from the digital revolution of photography inviting people "who don't have to be beautiful or stunning, just be interesting" to participate. Images are projected onto a wall and edited in front of them.   

All Rankin Live participants contribute to alleviating poverty with Oxfam. In 2008 and 2009 Rankin visited the Democratic Republic of Congo with Oxfam to highlight the forgotten conflict in the country, taking a series of portraits of people who were living in refugee camps. 

This is an extremely wealthy country in terms of natural resources but Congolese face many atrocities such as gang rape, the forceful use of child soldiers, famine and continuous violence. This video reveals the happiness of the refugees who maybe stopped feeling powerless for a while. 

When photographing, Rankin admits to fall in love briefly, trying to seduce whoever is in front of his camera. The most unpredictable person he has ever photographed was Courtney Love and he wishes to capture Sean Penn's complex character. 

"I'm only as good as my last picture." Rankin

Just as Diana Vreeland said to her children to be the best or the worst in their class, Rankin also wants his work to arouse passionate reactions, comparing it to Marmite ("you either love it or hate it"). Some people are just extreme! 

Other related blog posts:
20 Years of Dazed & Confused Magazine
Defying Photography
The Photography of Eve Arnold