SPARK OF GENIUS
He has photographed everyone from the Queen to Kate Moss, The Rolling Stones to David Bowie but after over 30 years at the cutting edge of popular culture, legendary lensman Rankin is about to release a new book far from anything he’s produced before.
He made his name spray painting Kate Moss for the cover of Dazed and Confused but photographer Rankin’s latest coffee-table book is a far cry from those hedonistic days of Cool Brittania.
Shot during lockdown when, for the first time in over three decades, Rankin found himself closed off from his studio and collaborators, his thought-provoking new publication focuses on the importance of creativity as a tool for personal mental well-being.
A companion series to his 2021 book Embrace, this latest work titled An Exploding World, explores the aesthetic of destruction, through apocalyptic imagery reminiscent of nuclear explosions or comets.
Designed by long-time Rankin collaborators, SEA, the book proved an intensely personal project for Rankin and one immeasurably entangled with his own mental health.
Forced to find a way to create work without face-to-face interaction, the portrait photographer turned to nature throughout those lonely months of isolation and the result is an incredible series of shots focussing on the humble dandelion. Rankin said: “For years now I’ve been obsessed with the perfection of a dandelion seed head. Seen as weeds, they grow absolutely everywhere, especially in the city and during a time of great stress, there was comfort in them.”
Taking dandelions – symbols of courage, growth, hope and healing – and setting them alight, Rankin found his own visual metaphor for how he and the rest of the world was feeling.
He says the process of burning the plants was not one of destruction but rather a need to clear out the old and make way for the new.
“When fire burns through the forest, the old growth burns away to allow space for the new forest to emerge and so by burning these dandelions I was clearing space mentally and finding a new outlet for my creativity.
“My still-life works feel like some of the purest images I’ve taken since the 90s and they exist in the same world as my portraits or nudes, a fresh realisation of my fascination with beauty and death. These two themes have fascinated me throughout my career and, as I get older, they start to become more intertwined in my imagination.”