Rankin on advertising, nudity and making his son proud

Rankin, the fashion photographer known for his work with Kate Moss, Heidi Klum and his role as a co-founder of Dazed & Confused, is also renowned for his work in advertising.


Examples include the Dove campaign for real women, the NHS's anti-smoking ads and most recently, the new French Connection campaign. Here, he details what his new agency The Full Service is about, why he loves Stephen Marks and how the issues around body image fuel his work:

I had an idea that I’d send a whip to all my clients, just for fun.

"The Full Service is not a full advertising shop, we’re more along the lines of a content agency. We’ve been doing work for the past three or four years but simply didn’t give it a name. For me, our team is bigger than just Rankin Film or photography – there’s about 50 people that work here and they’re all excitingly creative in their own way. I love working with ad agencies and I didn’t want to go into competition with them, but the French Connection campaign felt like the right time to package ourselves up and explain The Full Service to marketing directors, brands and agencies.

"We also got an email from the bloke who owns a company called Full Service, saying we should probably change our name because his business is an adult entertainment agency. I had the idea that maybe I’d send a whip to all my clients, just for fun."

Stephen just said: 'I want it to be really exciting, even if you have to get someone’s cock out.'

"When the possibility of doing French Connection’s new campaign came along, a brand with such brilliant heritage, we thought that it would be the perfect label to launch The Full Service with.

French Connection campaign by Rankin"I went to see Stephen (Marks, chief executive) and he said that a lot of people don’t realise that French Connection still designs its own clothes, and that it’s not ripping off other high street stores. He just said: "I want it to be really exciting, even if you have to get someone’s cock out."

"So we came up with an idea that almost came from him, which is the best kind of advertising, isn’t it? Using naked models with the clothes sketched onto them. It’s great to do something with a bit of nudity; it’s harmless but it’s also a bit naughty and cheeky."

The Unilever people were fucking amazing.

"The Dove campaign for real women was led by people that really wanted to change the marketplace. The Unilever people were fucking amazing and they just let Dennis Lewis at Ogilvy take the idea and run with it. For me, the most memorable campaigns I have worked on are when a brand lets you do what you’re good at and doesn’t water your work down.

"Levis are the same, they let you run with an idea, and most recently Weightwatchers have done the same. I did a French campaign for them where they were really trying to change the landscape of how their brand is marketed: it wasn’t an informercial, or an ad trying to persuade people that a celebrity who has lost weight is an image you should try to aspire to, it looked like a beauty commercial using close ups of lips that made food look sexy."

I do charity campaigns because I want my son to be proud of me. I don’t want him to think I’m this vacuous fashion photographer.

Advertising has to be more real because there is a public expectation for it to reflect real life.

"Some work you do for the money - it would be a lie to say that I didn’t. But I try to avoid those jobs because I don’t feel that they get my best work. I work with charities because I take pictures all the time and I want to try to give something back to the bigger community. I want my son to be proud of me, I don’t want him to think I’m this vacuous fashion photographer; charity is about giving back, being creative and having a bit of a soul.

"I always encourage people to try it out because you get a lot out of it personally, though not financially."

I do see a conflict in my fashion photography and charity work

"Human beings are made up of many facets including conflict and that’s what makes us interesting. I do charity work around body image because I feel responsible. I do use real people in my work; they’re not all models. I make sure that the fashion imagery I create is fantastical and does not reflect real life – its super luxury and people are attracted to that.

"But advertising has to be more real because there is a public expectation for it to reflect real life. I’ve tried very hard to walk that tightrope that creates imagery that is seductive and exciting, to do both the real and the fantasy pictures. And I will always balance the fashion photography with work like Rankin Live, which included portraits of 1500 real people." 

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