The name Rankin resonates with the ‘90s – a time when creativity was at a cultural peak and Kate Moss was not much more than a fresh-faced model in the making.
The look of heroin chic was on the rise and grunge was all the rage, but you wouldn’t have had to tell him twice. Back in 1992, along with Jefferson Hack, the duo started one of the world’s most influential magazines, Dazed & Confused.
The legendary British photographer’s work has tapped into every creative orifice with an experimental and unconventional eye that has stripped away social norms – and needless to say, it still has the same powerful effect.
His latest exhibition, “Less Is More,” offers a retrospective of his extensive range of work that starts with early imagery from Dazed & Confused, all the way to his more conceptual pieces. The Ulrich Ptak-curated exhibition features everything from explorations of death to images of intrinsic masks and the gigantic frieze, now showcasing at the Kunsthalle Rostock in Germany.
We caught up with the photographer/director/publishing mogul to discuss how he’s still inspired after 30 years in the business, his process of capturing images and the idea of today’s instant share mentality.
“Less is More” takes us back to where it all began on your work with Dazed & Confused. Tell us about the evolution of your conceptual work and what it means to you.
The conceptual work is something I’ve always done right from the beginning. The only evolution of these ideas is in my ability to execute them and finance them to a more impressive level. They are still framed around the same themes and thoughts that I had when I first picked up a camera and read Ways of Seeing or Camera Lucida. There is still this thread that runs through them all. A way of contemplating death, time and the depiction of reality.
These are all the things I still look at, while also trying not to make them to intellectualized or unreadable for a mass audience. Most of them are my personal take on the world, they allow me to have a sense of humor about what I do, to have a dig at the establishment or with the homogenous. I suppose I need to do them so I can comment on the world.
What made you decide to portray the images on such a large scale?
I was interested in the idea of challenging the viewer to look at the work in a different way, not just by flicking or clicking. I had the opportunity to create a couple of event images, something that you can’t capture on a phone that you have to go to the show to experience. So I jumped on it. When you see the work it’s like a wow moment, the sheer scale of it makes you go wow, whether you like the pieces or not.
Is there a particular photograph within the “Less is More” exhibition that’s holds a strong significance to you?
I love the frieze in the white space. It was just so difficult to create and a massive risk, as I wasn’t sure it was going to work. But, when I saw it the other night it was magical.
After three decades in the world of photography, what would you say keeps you inspired?
Everything inspires me. All I’ve ever wanted to do was communicate my ideas through photography and have a perspective on the world that I could share with other people. I love what I do. I get the chance to meet loads of inspiring people and collaborate with them every day. We get to create something together that will hopefully last for a very long time, both personally and creatively. How could I not be inspired?
Tell us about the process in which the images were chosen for the exhibition.
Ulrich Ptak, the curator, said he wanted to show less of my work, things that meant more to me. He encouraged me to be braver in my choices. Once I had that thought in my head it was a pretty easy leap to the title and concept for the show.
From there the editing process was fairly straightforward, the images had to have an idea running through them – they had to be more than just seductive photos, but photos that meant something to me as well.
It’s been said that your images do not necessarily stem from a backstory but rather capture a story of the world through your eyes. Do you feel this creates more of a certain spontaneity within your work?
My photos come from everywhere, some have backstories and others don’t. The main thing is I use photography to process ideas, to try to work things out. Sometimes that happens in the moment, sometimes it takes a lot of time to work through.
You’re 100% right, I try to keep the work spontaneous, as I think that those moments make the work more interesting and photography (even when it’s conceptual) is about capturing moments for me. I believe you can feel that energy in the shot.
Being consumed by the instant-share mentality that surrounds us today, how do you feel we can keep the dream alive in terms of making people think and question the photographs in front of them – rather than the dismissiveness that often comes from social media and the likes?
That’s a tough one. I love social media and instant imaging because of the fact that so many people are communicating with images. But it’s very dangerous on so many levels. I guess for me, continuing to create books and magazines and things that live for a little bit longer in real life help to keep that dream alive. Doing shows or exhibitions with event pieces really excites me, where the photographs can only be experienced properly if you see them in reality.
“Less Is More” opened its doors on December 13 and will run through until February 28, 2016.
Kunsthalle Rostock Art Gallery
Hamburger Str. 40
Rostock, Germany 18069
- Photographer: Rankin©