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October 14 2011

Rankin photographs famine in east Africa

Photographer Rankin visited Turkana, Kenya for Oxfam's Blog Action Day to meet some of the people facing drought and hunger in a region that has not had enough rain since 2005

January 30 2011

Rankin's scarlet women on show at National Portrait Gallery

Portraits of models wearing creations by UK designers to hang beside paintings from collection which inspired them

In the imagination of the photographer Rankin, the scarlet sash of the improbably grateful man kneeling to receive the gift of a bible from Queen Victoria, and the scarlet sleeve of her husband Albert, have been transformed into a swirl of crimson silk designed by Matthew Williamson, billowing around the model Natasha Ndlovu.

A parade of Rankin's spectacular photographic portraits of models wearing creations by British designers including Dame Vivien Westwood, Stella McCartney, Hussein Chalayan, Giles Deacon and Alice Temperley, will hang in the National Portrait Gallery for just one night beside the paintings from the collection which inspired them.

The pairings will include Daphne Self beside the famous Tudor Ditchley Portrait of Elizabeth I – Self is in a short black Westwood gown, Elizabeth in lavishly embroidered white satin – but Self's imperious stance echoes that of the queen trampling the globe beneath her feet into submission.

Mary Wollstonecraft, the Georgian feminist and author, and model Valerie Pain are both contemplative in white, and the Queen – by Andy Warhol and Katie Parsons in Giles Deacon – both pretty in pink.

In the pairing of Natasha and Victoria, only the vivid red appears to connect two very different women. In the Victorian painting by Thomas James Barker, the queen, who is flanked by Albert and two prime ministers, John Russell and Lord Palmerston, is presenting the bible to an unnamed representative of her empire: the title is The Secret of England's Greatness.

The portraits will all be on display for SNAPPED, a special fashion late night opening on 11 February, when the gallery will remain open until 10pm, hosting events including workshops on fashion illustration and a panel discussion joined by model Erin O'Connor, Lorraine Candy editor of Elle, and the equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone.

The photographs, and the events are part of the campaign by the organisation All Walks Beyond the Catwalk, which campaigns to broaden the outlook of the fashion industry beyond the catwalk tradition of stick insect thin models. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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August 16 2010

Rankin joins Sky Arts' cultural revolution

An advertising campaign that turns streets into 'the biggest gallery in Britain' is part of a smart political move by BSkyB

Sky Arts has called in the photographer Rankin to help raise its profile as a credible outlet for culture programming, with an advertising campaign that promises to turn streets in six large cities into "the biggest gallery in Britain".

Every billboard, poster, bus stop and phone box advertising space on selected main streets in Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Liverpool and London will be blanketed with images of artists and performers.

In some ways the campaign, called Sky Arts Street Galleries, marks a coming of age for Sky Arts. The channel launched in its current form in 2007, and in recent months has made a string of impressive programming announcements. Perhaps the biggest coup was signing up Melvyn Bragg's South Bank Show after ITV ditched it. Also on the way are adaptations of four Chekhov plays with stars such as Steve Coogan, and a Gilbert and Sullivan season.

BSkyB trumpets Sky Arts as proof that it does offer public-service content. James Murdoch cites the channel as an example of the good things that the market can provide. Such claims have have faced scepticism, however; this has not been a totem as successful as Sky News.

The burgeoning status of Sky Arts plays well politically for the Murdochs. As Jeremy Hunt prepares his cuts, BSkyB's claim that it can support high culture on a commercial basis pushes all the right buttons.

The ad campaign itself, which breaks today, is likely to raise a few eyebrows. Rankin has produced 16 images, each representing a different form of art, with Sky wholeheartedly embracing the philosophy that sex sells, in the arts world as elsewhere.

One particularly striking ad shows the artist and model Meredith Ostrom, sitting naked with just a smattering of paint on her body; the stylistic touch of Rankin just prevents the image from being soft porn.

Another ad makes similar use of the attractions of the Australian dancer Natasha Cudilla, pictured on her hands and knees in a little black dress.

To get full value from the ad campaign there is also a behind-the-scenes documentary, called Rankin: Sky Arts Street Galleries, which will be broadcast tonight. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 07 2010

Rankin on South Africa

The photographer was swept up by the energy and spirituality of an extraordinary Christian ritual cleansing ceremony in Johannesburg's Soweto township

Images from Rankin's exhibition and book, RANKINJOZI

South Africa is an incredible country, and one that has always captivated me. It is a country of unquestionable beauty, but beyond the natural majesty, it is a melting pot of social, religious and cultural diversity. I don't think I can ever even scratch the surface of this intriguing society. Last year, the BBC approached me with an idea for a documentary exploring the country's photographic traditions, and I leapt at the chance to do it. I wanted to learn more about South Africa, and this was the perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper and explore the country through the eyes of its pre-eminent photographers.

I spent three months researching the different photographers I would meet on my trip, their own stories and the disciplines they had mastered. While I was intrigued by photographers such as David Goldblatt and Alf Kumalo, it was Greg Marinovich from the Bang Bang Club (a group of photographers active within the townships during the Apartheid period) who I really felt like I struck up a friendship with. He is an incredible person, curious about everything, and fearless.

I spent a day with Greg photographing a ritual cleansing in the Klipspruit Stream. The river runs through the Soweto township, and every January, to mark the beginning of the new year, members of the African Zionist Church congregate there to celebrate. Hundreds of people participated throughout the day, and the spirituality was palpable, even when standing at a distance on the banks of the river and observing.

Greg was an inspiration – he got straight into the river and snorkelled to get underwater shots, to see the faces of those being cleansed as the water rushed about them and groups of up to eight people held them under.

I had no idea what to expect, so I just waded into the river to get up close to the action. The emotion of the people was intoxicating. Their energy, their exuberance, their relief, their joy, their sense of wellbeing . . . It's hard to describe, but was incredibly moving.

I was an outsider, but never felt like an intruder. They were happy to share their moments with me. It was a genuine celebration. I was fascinated by both the seemingly primitive nature of the cleansing (one man was cleansed with the blood of a freshly sacrificed chicken) and the joy of those taking part.

I guess my images can say more than anything I write can. It is something I will always remember, and I will always be thankful to Greg and the people of Soweto for inviting me to their celebration.

• Fashionable Melville, just east of Soweto, is a convenient district of Johannesburg in which to base yourself. A Room with a View (+27 11 482 5435) is highly rated for its comfort levels and friendly staff. It has just 14 rooms, some with conservatories, most with balconies. Doubles from €83, including breakfast.

RANKINJOZI is Rankin's new book and exhibition of his journey through South Africa. The book is distributed by Turnaround (£20). The exhibition will run until 6 June at Annroy Gallery in Kentish Town, London ( © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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