CRAFT: PROFILE; Will Rankin be too hot for advertising to handle?

Jane Austin gets hip with the top man at Dazed and Confused, Rankin Waddell

Jane Austin gets hip with the top man at Dazed and Confused, Rankin

Waddell



The prospect of an interview with Rankin Waddell, the photographer,

promo director and publisher of the cult fashion magazine, Dazed and

Confused, didn’t look good. According to rumour, Rankin was difficult,

streetwise, had buckets full of attitude and apparently lived up to his

college nickname of Wankin Rankin.



Fearing scorn from the hip young dudes in the D&C office, I left my

usual garb of Marks and Spencer jeans at home and strode into the

magazine’s Old Street office. ‘Is Rankin ’round?’ I asked in my best

mockney accent, as I nearly fell down the hole in the floor that leads

to the studio below. ‘That’s me,’ a quiet voice said, as a harrassed,

regular-looking guy came forward.



He can’t find his cuttings file, his wife (the actress, Kate Hardie) is

a wee bit hormonal as she is due to give birth to their first child next

month, and he’s got loads of work to do. He wants to work in the US but

also wants to be there for Kate and the baby. He and Kate are going to

do a photoshoot for Hello! as Kate needs the exposure for her acting

career. The shoot will not take place in their own home, however, but in

that of his father-in law, the Goodie-turned-ornithologist, Bill Oddie.



In the four years since he left the London College of Printing where he

studied photography, Rankin’s challenging photographs and publishing

ventures have courted both controversy and acclaim. Whether you like his

photography or not, his images are as instantly recognisable as his

work.



D&C was set up in 1992 by Rankin, his co-editor Jefferson Hack and the

fellow founder, Ian Taylor, after the trio had run a magazine called

Untitled at the London College of Printing. D&C came from a desire to

encourage people to do their own thing and to only write about issues

they found stimulating. The first three issues were sponsored, but

thereafter, Rankin became publisher and got a cash injection from his

Dad to help set up the company. Wearing two hats - as magazine publisher

and photographer - has its plus points as it means that Rankin has an

individually-tailored platform to show his work. He has photographed

every cover so far. Is he a control freak?



‘I know it’s very cheeky, but we have used the magazine to break young

photographers, writers and models,’ he offers as an explanation. ‘I am

influenced by the Thatcherite era I grew up in. Not in terms of making

money, and politically I am left wing, but I feel that I can work

anywhere I want and that I’m as good as anybody else. It frustrates me

that so many people in Britain think that if they are a photographer

they can’t do anything else. That’s why I think I might fit in better in

the US.’



His images stick to the traditional fashion formula of the ubiquitous

white background, but aim to challenge conceived notions of what fashion

photography is, with the hope that the reader might decode the meaning

of the photograph or just laugh.



Recent fashion stories that show this attitude include a feature

featuring a thin model ravenously munching bars of chocolate and cream

cakes, and another that carries images of a model super-imposed on a loo

seat and a bottle of washing-up liquid to illustrate the caption: ‘When

a girl is this unforgettable, her recurring image appears in the most

unusual places.’



His celebrity shots also display Rankin’s sense of adventure. A feature

on Kylie Minogue, in which she extols the virtues of her stomach, is

accompanied by a close-up shot of her tummy and knicker elastic.

Inspiration comes from ‘people and conversations’, and the magazine’s

policy is to present art stories as opposed to fashion stories and to

try to get away from promoting stereotypes.



So far, Rankin’s involvement with advertising has been scant. ‘I have

just started having my book called in for ad jobs. The last job was

money for old rope. The client [a cigarette manufacturer] cancelled just

after I had finished casting so I bagged a cancellation fee of pounds

5,000. Had the commission come off, I would have earned pounds 30,000

for four days’ work, but cancellations are far less stressful.’ At the

start of the year, Rankin signed up with the promo production outfit,

Kudos, and made his directorial debut with a video for the band, the

Silver Jets.



However, if he does want to get ahead in advertising it might be a good

idea if he learns a bit more about the industry. As I leave he looks at

me through hooded eyes. ‘Campaign, yeah?’, he says, as if it has just

dawned on him which magazine I’m from. ‘Oh yeah, I read it.’ ’Course you

do.



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