Rankin is considered to be one of the greatest photographers in the world, and his title is not undeserved. Rankin is transgressive, bold, innovative, and daring. His photography is infused with pop culture and exacerbated modernism. John Rankin Waddell, born in 1966 in Glasgow, makes portraits, fashion and nude photography. While studying accounting at Brighton Polytechnic, he realized that his interest lied elsewhere and decided to drop everything in order to follow his passion: photography. He signed up for a photography class at Luton’s Barnfield College and later in the London College of Printing. Rankin is a jack of all trades: photographer, publisher and film director, he established his reputation when he launched the cultural magazine called: Dazed & Confused with his Partner Jefferson Hack, in 1991. In 1999, this magazine became a film production company called Film & TV Dazed. Two magazine declensions followed: Another Magazine and Another Man, launched respectively in 2001 and 2005.
Rankin has worked with all the greats: Kate Moss, Madonna, David Bowie, Björk, Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Rolling Stones, Vivienne Westwood, Damien Hirst, Queen Elizabeth II or Tony Blair. He has shot advertising campaigns for world-renowned brands like Nike, L'Oréal, Hugo Boss, Levi's, Madonna for H & M and Coca-Cola. The photographer then tried himself at television, behind the camera, and made a few TV commercials. Together with Tony Grisoni (screenwriter of Las Vegas Parano) he also directed The Lives Of The Saints, a feature film which was shown in several festivals and won the jury prize at the tragicomedy International Festival of Salento, Italy. He also directed music videos for Kelis, Nelly Furtado, Marina and the Diamonds, Robyn Cobrastyle, Sky Ferreira. More recently, in December 2012, Cheryl Cole revealed their collaboration in producing the video for Ghetto Baby.
In January 2009, BBC Radio 4 broadcasted a one-hour documentary called "Seven photographs that changed fashion”, in which he pays tribute to Cecil Beaton, Erwin Blumenfeld, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, David Bailey and Guy Bourdin.
Trouble-maker and transgressive, he shot the Dove campaign, which portrayed women with curves-- the antithesis of the usual skinny models seen in advertising. He also photographed leading charitable campaigns for Amnesty International, Oxfam, Everyman, Women’s Aid, the awareness campaign for breast cancer... In order to complete his experience, John went to the other side of the camera and became a media figure: he appeared on Germany’s Next Top Model as a guest judge, and regularly works with the winner of Britain’s Next Top Model, Lianna Fowler. In 2011, Rankin was hired as professor of photography on Channel 4 and also presented the BBC documentary America in pictures - The Story of Life Magazine.
Do you have a favourite kind of photography?
There really is no predefined photographic genre I prefer. Gradually, as I grew, I became increasingly attracted, even obsessed with photojournalism and portraits. Now I am passionate about photography in general and I could apply myself to anything.
What has influenced you?
Films were my first influence. My family did not really have an “artistic fibre”, but we often went to the movies with my dad, and I still love it. But I am inspired by many things and many people: Damien Hirst inspired me a lot. I think his work provokes strong reactions and has a significant emotional impact on the viewer; I have a deep empathy for that. Otherwise, there is Caravaggio, Turner, Bernini and Egon Schiele. And there are so many other photographers whose work I admire: Newton, Avedon, Blumenfeld, Nick Knight, Juergen Teller, David Bailey and Sokolsky . They each have a different approach, a unique experimental technique. I had the chance and opportunity to work with many talented people and they helped me find new ways and approaches to photography. As for music, I listen to everything: Mozart, Stevie Wonder, Mark Ronson, Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, The Who… a mix of everything, which I like.
Besides photography, any other passions?
I love the world of films. Cinema has a very different creative process, very different from photography: it explores other ideas and tells stories. I have been producing films for 15 years now. Editorial films or fashion films are a fascinating genre and I'm very interested to see how they continue to grow. I want to know who will do the next new thing. We’ve recently started to produce editorial films to accompany the photo shootings which are published in magazines. Other than that, I like to read and I love my dog.
Do you have any obsessions in terms of photography?
Not really. I take them as they come. I can get a little obsessive about the subject and I like when the realization takes a special twist. But I do not wear a lucky t-shirt or do anything religious. Sometimes I like to listen to "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John at the end of a session that was particularly long and gruelling. Do not ask me why, I just love to.
- Meet Rankin in Normal Magazine 2 & 1 -