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Style and vision: Rankin's images promote campaign to save women's sight

At first glance the images appear to be advertising the latest in edgy style from the more extreme reaches of high-end fashion.

In fact the pictures, by the leading fashion photographer Rankin and published exclusively in The Independent on Sunday ahead of their release next week, are intended to highlight the plight of the millions of women around the world who have needlessly gone blind. Rankin, who co-founded Dazed & Confused magazine and is also known for his portraits of celebrities such as Kylie Minogue and Cate Blanchett, produced the images for the charity Sightsavers to mark World Sight Day on Thursday.

The photographer and the charity wanted to draw attention to the fact that two-thirds of the 45 million blind people in the world are women and 90 per cent of those live in the developing world. "Eyesight is something that as a photographer I'm very nervous about," Rankin said. "People say 'what's the worst thing that could happen?' And I say 'to lose my sight'. It's not only my life and business but the sense that I love the most."

Rachel Heald of Sightsavers added that 75 per cent of blindness was curable or preventable. "There are lots of reasons why blindness is more prevalent in women," she said. "Women live longer, which brings a slight bias. But in the developing world they have less access to eye-care services. Most blindness is caused by cataracts or trachoma, in which the eyelids turn inwards and scratch the eye. One of the reasons we're doing this campaign with Rankin is that we wanted a more creative way to put across our message."

Rankin added: "Women are drawn to beauty, and I thought it would be great to get make-up artists to think about their sight. So it's interesting and arresting but not celebrity-driven. We're all consumers in Western society and beauty is a massive part of it, and I think this is a nice way of flipping all that.

"I didn't realise that two women go blind to every man. I wanted to do an appeal that was interesting to women and something that they might find accessible."

Find out more about the campaign at www.sightsavers.org/rankin