Chris U's Ethical Photography Books #2

September 17, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Today I will be sharing two photography books by the famous portrait photographer Rankin. I bought these together quite a few years back when I didn't know a great deal about the photographer but I could instantly tell by the physical quality of the books themselves that they where worth a look. It took a couple of seconds from opening the books to me making my decision to buy them both, even at what I thought was a high price of £7.99 each. I later discovered that these two could be the best value and biggest bargains in terms of photography books that I could hope to find, online used prices would set me back well over £250 if I wanted to buy them both.

Since the purchase I've become a big fan of Rankin's portraiture and like many have enjoyed seeing him work on various television programs on SKY ARTS and his series on the BBC. I feel very privileged to own two of his books especially with my budget when it comes to photography resource materials.  

 

ALEX BOX By Rankin
 

The first of the two titled Alex Box was what initially caught my eye when I walked into the little charity shop in Hull, my local town. It would be hard not to notice the bright visually striking front cover on the pretty large hardback!

The book is a collaboration between Photographer Rankin and Makeup Designer and Artist Alex Box. Essentially it's a portrait book of close ups so just faces, but not like any I've ever seen before. It contains a mixture of beautiful portraits of attractive models with elaborate striking make up directly on the model and images that have been turned into a new artform by further drawing, painting and messing around onto and with the photographs post printing. The book contains very little writing, has no introduction or explanations of any images. Instead it gives the reader the responsibility of interpreting the images and creating ones own narrative.   
 

  After the last image there is a double spread questions and answers with Alex Box which goes into a little bit of detail on her early life and what influenced her into a career in make up design, followed by questions about how the book itself came into conception and her relationship with Rankin.   

The Final question - "How would you describe the book? An emotive make up diary. There are points when I can see I was sad and others I was happy. It's a diary to me it's very revealing."

After the Q&A there is a single page epilogue which gives some more explanation to the concept of the book followed by four pages of thumbnails and small images from the book alongside the models name and and hair stylist. 

I can honestly say I like most of the images in the book and they are all brilliantly shot and I struggled to pick a favourite however the images like these examples which had been drawn on afterwards especially stood out to me as it is something I'd never even considered trying at least in a fine art context.

With the usual high price tag I don't see this book appealing to many but high end make up artists and fashion photographers, but if you do ever see it cheap grab it fast as it is a high quality beautiful book filled with beautiful images.

 

 RANKIN_portraits By Rankin

 

The next book is simply called RANKIN_portraits and I'm not sure if it is coincidence or a reoccurring theme with the Rankin photography books but again there is very little text in this book. Literally a small introduction and an index of models by name at the end, there's no description on the back or inside cover. Each image is accompanied by just a first name of the model. 

The subjects are all celebrities from across the whole spectrum of recognisable public figures. From actors and bands to royalty with the obvious inclusion of famous models thrown in the mix. The 350 pages are nearly all filled with images of recognisable (even to me) faces which just goes to highlight the amount of high profile portraits Rankin had already achieved by the time of printing the book, 2010 I believe. 

The introduction lets us into Rankin's method when it comes to taking portraits, which he explains is to go in with no real preconceptions of the end result, instead it's all about instincts and the connection with the subject. I really do believe he achieves this in all of his chosen final images. There's something in all of the images that's hard to explain, they just seem to come across as more natural than a professional studio shoot should allow. It's almost like a small insight into the celebrities safe space which we don't usually get to see if that makes any sense!

 There's not much else to say, again it's another master class in portraiture with the added bonus of the highest of profile models. When trying to decide a favourite image I couldn't help but gravitate towards my favourite actors and enjoyed seeing them in a different medium. I picked the fun Robert Downey Jr series and the cool image of Arnie smoking his cigar with the friendly raised smile. Another easy book to recommend if you ever see it going cheap and the more accessible of the two reviewed today, the subjects will be familiar to most and obviously it's not as specialist as the Alex Box book whilst still top quality. 

    

 


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