The first thing you notice leafing through the new monograph of Rankin, the fashion photographer who co-founded Dazed & Confused with Jefferson Hack, and then went on to found Hunger magazine, is how uneven his work is. That’s what a retrospective spanning 30 years can do, and that’s all fine, because creative people develop and change. There are some hits and some misses, but the larger point is that “UNFASHIONABLE” seems like a misnomer for this tome that shows Rankin as a pretty conventional fashion photographer. Conventional bright colors – exaggerated but not enough, conventional poses – leaning over or standing with legs spread wide apart to denote what? female power or invitation to intercourse?, conventional sexiness – all pink undies and red lips. Heavy reliance on make up and props rather than photography techniques, heavy retouching. We’ve seen it all before.
There are also some gems – a photograph of Martin Meister with superimposed retouching directions, a beautiful portrait of Sanna Saastamoinen, her face covered in sand, one of Holly Silius, with a Tim Burton-like Halloween skull drawn on the back of her shaved head, and the Highly Flammable shoot for Dazed from 1997, probably Rankin’s best. And of course, there is plenty of Kate Moss, the best one being Spray Paint Kate, a shoot from 1998.
The 304-page book contains 200 photographs and begins in reverse chronological order. If that was supposed to be some kind of a creative feat, it backfired, as Rankin’s work gets progressively less interesting with time. It becomes more and more artificial, but it doesn’t quiet reach the same extreme places where photographers like Guy Bourdin could go. Oh, well.
Rankin: Unfashionable, published by Rizzoli ($65). All images courtesy of the publisher