I first met Rankin in a bar called DNA in 1992. He’d photographed a friend of mine named Christine Kellogg for an exhibition at the old Katharine Hamnett shop now called the Collection Gallery, at Brompton Cross. She was tiny and he’d shot her from above in a laundry basket; she was fragile and fine, he was Scottish and brusque.
Rankin, Jefferson Hack, and a college friend named Ian Taylor had just won awards for a student union magazine called Untitled. They were trying to get together a magazine called Dazed & Confused. I hated the name—why would you ever name anything after a Led Zeppelin song?
I was on my year out from Central Saint Martins. I was bored—I was packing boxes for a knitwear company called Artwork, a job I thought was significantly beneath me, and I’d had my car clamped for the first and only time ever in Bermondsey. Did I want to go and work for them at the London School of Printing? Sure, anything was better than getting clamped and packing boxes and not getting paid.
Rankin was getting some notice around town taking Bailey-esque portraits of young London faces that he hoped would be the stars of tomorrow. I think only Peter Cunnah from the young band D:Ream went on to be famous. He also did a brilliant series of club kids at the time called ‘Blow Up.’ It didn’t really matter that these kids weren’t famous, nor would ever become famous. It’s a brilliant documentation of Westwood and Pam Hogg fashion from the time, and also of the people who couldn’t afford the high fashions doing their own brilliant copies.
As Rankin’s confidence grew (he was always painfully arrogant in public), he wanted to change how we looked at fashion. I had a pure fashion background, but understood for him to get his head around photographing fashion he needed a reason, a concept. I think he was nervous to compete with the fashionable photographers of the early 1990s who worked on The Face and i-D: David Sims, Mario Sorrenti, Corinne Day, Juergen Teller. He needed a spin on it—it couldn’t just be a photograph.
And so began a series of concept shoots: ‘Ghosts,’ ‘Hungry?,’ ‘Big Girl’s Blouse,’ ‘Sad Lad,’ ‘Animal Fashion’…. He was one of the first people ever to photograph plus-sized models for a fashion shoot. He wanted to turn the normal perception of what a fashion shoot was on its head. And years later he’s still doing it with his magazine Hunger. For Rankin, it can’t just be a straight fashion image: it needs a reason for being.
Foreword by Katie Grand
Rankin, Unfashionable : 30 years of Fashion Photography
Texts by Andrew Gallimore, Katie Grand, Jefferson Hack and Kate Moss.