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RANKIN: The Musicians Behind the Scenes - Sound Off - FAD Magazine

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RANKIN: Sound Off – Musicians 1990-23, charts the career of a photographer at the zenith of his art.

RANKIN: Sound Off - Musicians 1990-23, charts the career of a photographer at the zenith of his art.
Michael Stipe, Revolution in The Head, Dazed & Confused, Issue 68, 2000, © Rankin

Responsible for some of the most iconic editorial shoots and album artwork of the 1990s and 2000s, Rankin has photographed the biggest British bands, including Pulp and Radiohead, pop superstars such as the Spice Girls and Dua Lipa, and cult heroes like Michael Stipe and PJ Harvey. Over a carefully curated selection of portraits, Sound Off showcases Rankin’s ability to create images that came to define the zeitgeist, as well as exploring the personalities behind each musician’s persona.

RANKIN: Sound Off - Musicians 1990-23, charts the career of a photographer at the zenith of his art.
PJ Harvey, Woman of the Year, Q Magazine, 2001 © Rankin

Rankin’s art has always been part of the music scene, beginning with the seminal magazine Dazed & Confused, which he set-up with Jefferson Hack in 1990. The magazine was a central part of the cultural renaissance that swept through 90s Britain, placing provocative images alongside the music, art and fashion that defined a decade. Embracing a DIY culture, the magazine was embedded in the night-club scene and featured both established stars such as David Bowie and Debbie Harry, as well as breakthrough acts like Robbie Williams and Oasis.

Music is also a vital component of Rankin’s photographic practice, with shoots usually accompanied by a loud soundtrack. Rankin’s aim has always been to give some of the power of the photographer over to the subject. By playing music and creating a unique and personal atmosphere in his studio, this honest and open approach creates space for the subject to be themselves.

Sound Off allows viewers to understand the challenges that are presented when photographing iconic figures.

As Rankin explains of shooting Debbie Harry,

You really have to try and push every image you’ve seen of her out of your mind when you photograph her. Everyone has seen hundreds of amazing pictures of her, you have to make a real effort to be different.

David Bowie, No Different From Anyone Else, Dazed & Confused, Issue 15, 1995, ©Rankin

In a career that has seen him photograph everyone from royalty to rock stars, it is this ability to capture both the public and private personas that has struck chord with viewers.

As Rankin notes,

I get asked all the time what celebrities are really like. My mantra now is “They’re just people too”.

Radiohead, OK Computer, 1997 ©Rankin

TIN MAN ART’s gallery at Cromwell Place is a fitting location to showcase this selection of Rankin portraits, particularly as the exhibition follows two sold-out shows featuring artworks by one of the photographer’s most famous subjects, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, who presented his ‘The Crow Flies’ series of landscapes, created in collaboration with artist Stanley Donwood, with TIN MAN ART last year. One of Rankin’s favourite portraits of Radiohead is included in the show.

RANKIN: Sound Off – Musicians 1990-23 charts the career of a photographer at the zenith of his art, one who was originally inspired by the album art of his childhood, and has since captured some of the most celebrated musicians of his time.

Rankin comments:

Going back through my archive, the funniest thing that struck me was how many of these images the artists didn’t like at the time. Their hair was out of place, they didn’t like the concept of the shoot, they didn’t like me. But now, how perfectly those images seem to embody who they were. It’s as if all of the little bits that make a shoot—the hair, makeup, styling—come together to codify a career through imagery.

RANKIN: Sound Off - Musicians 1990-23, charts the career of a photographer at the zenith of his art.
Keith Richards, Smokey Keith, 2002 ©Rankin

TIN MAN ART director James Elwes comments:

Rankin’s visionary photography and publishing has transfixed music lovers for 30 years. The works in this show empower and iconise an array of musical artists—for me, there are moments where we see pop transcend into folklore.

RANKIN: Sound Off – Musicians 1990-23, 12th-24th March 2024, Cromwell Place, TIN MAN ART

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