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Interviews | February 10, 2020

Rankin

He is one of the most influential photographers in the whole of the fashion world, an innovative publisher and a talented film director. A true creative mind able to leave a mark of relevance on everything he has done throughout his career

words Enrico S. Benincasa

When did you discover your fascination for photography?

I became interested in photography when I was 20 years old. I was studying business, but I wasn’t inspired by accountancy and those kinds of subjects. There were a lot of art students in my college and I found more connections with them. So, I picked up a camera and I started making photos. Ever since then I’ve been addicted to photography and to telling stories. My family has no artistic background, so I consider myself very lucky because everything happened by coincidence.

Do you remember who the first person was to find something in your work as a photographer?

Yes. It was a teacher in college named Charles. I did a still life of some action men for an assignment he gave to the class. He was very satisfied with what I did.

You have worked in the fashion world for the last three decades. How has this industry changed during this period of time?

It’s completely different from when I started. It’s almost the opposite of what it was. At my beginnings it was a very small world, maybe 100,000 people in the world worked in the whole industry. It was a sort of a bubble. At a certain moment this industry became very successful in a very short time. It was a worldwide phenomenon, suddenly everyone wanted to be part of this world. Things now are completely changed, even children want to be part of it. We may say that today more people are interested in fashion especially through social media, so from a certain point of view it is a more democratic world.

Your beginnings in the fashion industry are strongly connected to the birth of Dazed and Confused, the magazine that you and Jefferson Hack launched in 1991 when you were both college students. What were your expectations when you started this journey?

The thing is that we just wanted to make something. Our real goal was to have more than a magazine: a shop, a cafè, a record company, a gallery. Starting a magazine seemed to us the right choice because it offered us the chance to make money immediately with fashion advertising, even though the music industry really helped us as well. In fact, we didn’t fully realize what we were going to do. We were in the right place at the right time, we were students of a college that had the know-how to do this project (the London College of Printing, now The London College of Communication, Ed.). We didn’t want to wait and we were confident. But, honestly, we just wanted to last more than a couple of weeks.

You are considered to be one of the most influential photographers of recent years, but you are also a film director, not solely for commercial projects. What’s the main difference between Rankin as a photographer and Rankin as a film director?

I think that my voice as a photographer is very established, it’s much stronger. Maybe, if I had enough time to focus on directing, things could be different, but it would also depend on the projects I’d be involved in.

Social media platforms are changing everyone’s perspective regarding photography. Do you think this phenomenon is helping people to understand the power of images?

It’s hard to tell. The problem with everything that has happened in the last five years is that we don’t have all of the elements to judge. We still are in the middle of something that looks like a hurricane for this world. It’s very hard to predict what this is going to mean for photography in the next ten years. We love the fact that people are taking photos, everyone is involved, from 8 to 80 years old, but the main problem is the way those platforms are designed. They could cause a sort of addiction. I don’t hate the platforms themselves, but I think that the media of photography is treated in a negative way. ‘Traditional’ photography is now in a strange place; it’s frozen because of it. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the future

Is there anyone in the world you would like to shoot, or someone you have already shot that you would like to shoot again?

I don’t know. I love the idea of photographing people like Sean Penn or Obama, just as an example. But, as I said before, photography is living a strange moment right now, and to me photography is always about keeping the world going. I’m not doing portraits of celebrities or famous people like I did in the past, but I’m doing commercial and personal projects that I really like and there’s a couple of other projects that I’m really excited to start. It’s a phase when I’m looking around, I’m exploring.

Is ‘Rankin – From Portraiture to Fashion’ a solo exhibition currently hosted by 29 Arts in Progress Gallery in Milan: why did you decide to do this particular event?

I think it’s really good to reassess your world sometimes. I’m lucky to have the chance to slow down for a bit and I took this moment to think about what I have done, especially because I’m used to running away with myself. It’s a good thing, a way to remind yourself what photography is.

What’s your relationship with eyewear?

I wear glasses, especially for reading. I’m even wearing a pair right now. I don’t have a particular brand or designer that I prefer, but I do like the eyewear industry. I see a lot of creativity in it. I like photographing glasses and seeing them in pictures, especially sunglasses. I think that, during my career, I haven’t ever asked anyone to take their glasses off for a photo