How do I look? Rankin Photographer, age 38

I'm never going to be six foot or have a completely flat stomach

WHEN I first started doing photography a lot of people thought I was black, because of my name, I think. I've had at least 20 or 30 people say to me, "I thought you were a really big, tall, black man". It was quite funny. Obviously I'm not - I'm a short, fat, white boy. There aren't that many images of me around. I'm not very attractive or interesting to look at anyway, so it's not such a great idea to feature my physical presence. It's much more interesting to feature the work - the work speaks for me.

I tend to dislike being photographed and I don't particularly like looking at photographs of myself. Although funnily enough, I've just done a whole set of self-portraits and I did really enjoy that because it was about playing with people's perceptions of me and my perceptions of myself. So I shot myself as a male-chauvinist pig. I am actually dressed as a pig. I did myself as Claudia Schiffer and as Kate Moss - I took photographs I'd done of them and put my face on to their bodies.

People have said that I'm "a bit of a nightmare", and I'm seen as being difficult and petulant. It's funny the myths that grow around you. Every one of us is made up of so many facets and layers of personality, but people just tend to pick on the one or two flaws in your character that are easy to talk about, don't they? It's strange - I've done a couple of things to piss people off and then suddenly that's my whole personality. It's more complex than that.

I'm pretty scruffy and unfashionable. I can't wear the Gucci suits and the Martin Margiela and all those really cool labels because I don't have the build for it. They don't fit me. So I just tend to wear T-shirts and jeans. But I'm very specific about what I like. I do have a fashion sense, but I don't think it's necessarily something that anybody else would see. People would never look at me and think, "Oh, he really made an effort", even if I had done.

With my photographs I'm always trying to capture something a bit quirky about someone, something a bit different, because that's what I find beautiful. It's about being honest about what I see, but I also don't want to take pictures that piss people off. I don't want people to be upset when they look at their own image.

Visual representation and self-esteem are linked, aren't they? Doing the portraits taught me that I'm very vain. Everybody is vain to a greater or lesser degree aren't they? And I think I'm probably a bit more on the greater side. I wish I was a stone and a half lighter, I wish I didn't drink as much, I wish I didn't smoke and I wish I looked after myself better. I wish I wasn't so body-conscious but in the end I'm pretty sure that being body-conscious will make me a healthier person. I did a book of male nudes and I felt I had to be in it because it would be fake not to, and the pressure of knowing I was going to have to show myself naked meant that I made a conscious decision to become healthier. So I did for a while and when I saw the images I was happier. I was never going to be completely happy.

Nobody is really happy with the way they look. No one sits in front of a mirror and says, "I look fucking amazing!" Even supermodels aren't happy with themselves - I know that to be true. But you can't allow yourself to get bogged down in all that. I'm never going to be six foot or have a completely flat stomach, and it's just about coming to terms with that and dealing with it in a positive way. You should have pride in what you've got and play to the strengths you have. Perfection is really boring anyway, isn't it? I don't find it interesting, it's surface, very flat. I'm always very impressed by people who can allow images of themselves to go out that aren't necessarily "perfect". E

Rankin's `Australia: A Different Light' is at Sony Ericsson Proud Central, 5 Buckingham Street, London WC2 (020-7839 4942) until 4 March

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