I think it is telling that the first line of Rankin’s biography on his website states that he ‘unveils icons’. In his portraits he aims to reveal the character of a person, most notably through their eyes.
Rankin has photographed many famous people including royalty, film stars, musicians and athletes but his Rankin Live project, saw him photographing nearly 1500 members of the public too. He really does have a knack for getting to the heart of the person and drawing something out of them that perhaps even they didn’t know they had. Rankin calls it ‘Finding the essence of a person’.
It’s quite difficult to define Rankin’s style. He says that he doesn’t have a style and that he uses different lighting and techniques every time. It is the ‘honesty’ in the image that he looks for above any style.
Rankin says that talks continuously to the person he is photographing, looking for their reaction to what he is saying. He aims to build a rapport and make a connection with his sitter that he can share through the lens and if he can make someone feel good when they are having their photograph taken it will be easier to make them look good. They have to trust the person that is taking their photograph and trust that they won’t make them look ridiculous.
This video shows Rankin working with some teenagers, each one is to have their portrait taken as part of the project but some are a little nervous about it. he allows each to have their hair and make-up done before they get in front of the camera to make them feel beautiful. One girl that he is working with is clearly not relaxed enough so he switches their roles and has her take his photo. After a little while, when she is more comfortable, he switches the roles back and he gets the shot that he wants. With all of the young people he focuses on their eyes, asking them to smile with their eyes more or give a cheeky look with their eyes.