Posted by: rowenawilcox | April 27, 2010

Rankin: Life on camera

UPDATE: If you missed Africa in Pictures on Tuesday then you can still catch it on iPlayer.

Renowned photographer, publisher and film director Rankin almost needs no introduction as his risqué talent and signature portraits speak volumes about the man behind the lens.

For his latest exhibition – RANKINJOZI – Rankin travelled to South Africa earlier this year with BBC 4 to film a documentary about the country’s photography traditions and history.

Speaking about his work, Rankin, who lives in London with wife Tuuli and their thirteen-year-old son Lyle, says: “People inspire me…I’m really inquisitive about them”.

The photography bug kicked in when a 17-year-old Rankin had his picture taken by a hairdresser who had just cut his hair into a crazy style: “I just liked the idea of the glamour of it all at that point,” he said, although he later admitted: “ I didn’t start taking photo’s until I was 21”.

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At 21 he decided he didn’t want to become an accountant, as he had planned, and instead went back to do his A-Levels, “at the same time I realized I didn’t want to give up control of my images, or my life, so when I got out of school I joined up with Jefferson hack to start the magazine Dazed and Confused,” he added.

Dazed and Confused started out as a fold-out poster in 1992 and has now morphed into a prestigious publication and online venture, Dazed Digital.

The joint venture between Rankin and Jefferson Hack was something neither of them thought would be as successful as it is, saying: “In all honesty we didn’t think it would last more than a few issues and here we are all this time later.

“When we started Dazed and Confused there was a massive recession in Britain. Thatcher’s policies promoted the black economy, encouraging small, underground businesses. That Do-It-Yourself spirit coupled with a few sponsorships helped us get a leg up.”

Before this exhibition, Rankin has snapped huge names across the spectrum, including: Pop-Princess Kylie, Rock-Royalty and Her Majesty the Queen.

Detailing the fun and memorable things that have happened throughout his career, Rankin says: “There are so many fun and memorable things that have happened to me. I get to jump between very bizarre worlds all the time, from Buckingham Palace one day to hanging out with rock stars another.

“I get an insight into people’s lives that other people don’t – and maybe wouldn’t want to! One of the most surprising shoots was The Rolling Stones because they were so young at heart and so enthusiastic about everything.

“You get a lot of bands that are photographed a lot and they are really serious and quite mellow and a bit grumpy. I think that the Stones, even at their age now, were excited that they were still doing it and excited about life which for me was a surprise.”

He cites Bailey, Teller, Knight, McCullin and Leibovitz among his major influences and says photography is his “addiction”.

He adds: “My family will say that I’m an absolute workaholic. But it is such an amazing fix, to be able to go and take photographs,” and after travelling to South Africa for this latest exhibition, it is probably something that no one would argue.

RANKINJOZI launches on May 7 at Kentish Town’s Annroy Gallery and for those who simply cannot wait to take a peek at the snaps, the BBC 4 documentary – South Africa in Pictures – airs tonight at 9pm.

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