Rankin: My Life In Media

'There are so many skeletons in my photographic closet that I'd have to buy a whole house just to fit them all in'
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The Independent Online

Rankin, 39, has built his reputation as an innovative photographer with projects ranging from shooting a group of anonymous nudes who answered an ad in 'Time Out', to capturing Tony Blair for the 'Financial Times'. He is also the creative director of the 'Dazed' family of magazines, which he co-founded with Jefferson Hack in 1992. He lives in London, his favourite city in the world, and has one son, Lyle.

What inspired you to start a career in the media?

I was studying accountancy and happened to be in halls with lots of art students. I was 19, and suddenly my head was turned by sharing my life with these guys, who were all having a great time and expressing themselves so much better than I was. I applied to do a BTEC in photography, and then worked as a cleaner and a porter to earn enough to do the course and process film.

When you were 15 years old, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

My father read the Daily Express, but I wasn't interested in the news or the media at that stage. I think I was introduced to fashion by a girlfriend, and I used to buy Elle, and I got the first Arena.

And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

I remember coming home from school and watching Monkey and thinking it was one of the best TV programmes. We only had one TV and Dad pretty much decided what we watched.

What's the first media you turn to in the morning?

I'm not a paper reader but I listen to Radio 4 religiously in the morning.

Do you consult any media sources during your working day?

With Radio 4, I get a broad range of news and subjects.

What's the best thing about your job?

Meeting new people every day, and getting into their heads, and getting them to express themselves. We set up Dazed & Confused to help other photographers and give them a platform. That's something I'll probably come back to, but at the moment, doing a film, being a commercial photographer and doing my own personal projects takes up so much of my time that I haven't got time for anything else.

And the worst?

I'm so privileged to have this job that I don't really want to focus on anything negative. I wake up in the morning and feel like I'm a lucky guy because I get to do what I want and I love it.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

I think it's an achievement to be able to employ people to do something that they love doing, too. It's more than a magazine, it's a culture. To have done that and be successful as a photographer is really satisfying.

And your most embarrassing moment?

There are so many skeletons in my photographic closet that I'd have to buy a whole house just to fit them all in. The thing about Jefferson and I is that we grew up in public: we started a magazine as kids and we didn't know anything. There are some really embarrassing moments for us, editorially and photographically, but you should always learn from your mistakes as a creative. If you expose yourself emotionally or creatively in your work, you get the most exciting results.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I love good documentaries, anything about the war and animals - I'm a bit sad really. Everyone loves CSI, and I've started watching a girlie programme called Grey's Anatomy. I think Desperate Housewives is amazing.

What is your Sunday paper, and do you have a favourite magazine?

I buy The Sunday Times, and sometimes The Observer and The Independent on Sunday. I subscribe to Arena and Vogue. I love Purple magazine, too, and Self Service in France. I buy a lot of the new European style magazines to see what they're doing.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

I'd have said direct a film, but I've just done that. I also want to have a place that I've designed. Somewhere that represents me in terms of who I am and what I do.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

Probably, I'd be an entrepreneur. I'd find a way to make money, but I don't think I'd find it satisfying.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I admire the photographer David Bailey a tremendous amount, and Tony Elliott did something incredible when he started Time Out. I also love the guys from i-D, and I've always admired Nick Logan, the founder of The Face, and Ingrid Sischy of Interview in America. Those kind of people have always excited me because they've gone out on a limb and taken a risk.

The cv

1992 Launches style magazine Dazed & Confused with Jefferson Hack, which initially appears as a fold-out poster

2001 As creative director, introduces Another Magazine, the first international fashion biannual, joined this year by Another Man

2002 One of 10 photographers invited to take a picture of the Queen on her Golden Jubilee, the image was exhibited at Windsor Castle and now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery

2004 Shoots the headline-grabbing Dove campaign featuring "real" women

2005 Makes his first feature film, The Lives of the Saints, a 'darkly comic morality tale' set in north London. It will be released in 2006