LBB: The legendary photographer, publisher and founder of RANKIN CREATIVE discusses the difference between creatives and creators, the importance of balancing past and present and being a guardian for a brand.
Rankin’s knowledge of the creative mind is hard to challenge. A photographer, publisher, and film director – as well as founder of creative services company RANKIN CREATIVE – he’s used his own creativity and marshalled that of others to create campaigns for brands such as Rolls Royce, Unilever and Samsonite. He’s created wide reaching projects for charities including Women’s Aid and Macmillan and shot music videos for the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rita Ora and Kelis.
As a photographer Rankin’s portfolio ranges from portraiture to documentary. He’s shot The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner and Queen Elizabeth II to name only a few. As a publisher, Rankin co-founded the seminal magazine Dazed & Confused with Jefferson Hack in 1991, and has since published the likes of AnOther and AnOther Man, alongside over 40 books and the biannual fashion and culture print and digital platform, Hunger.
Here, as part of GENIE’s series on the creative mind, he discusses how to feed a creative mind and considers the nuanced role technology can play in creativity moving forward.
Q> What do you think makes a ‘creative mind’, to you?
Rankin> You have to be nosy, a little bit of a contrarian, and be willing to challenge the status quo.
If you’re a freelancer you’ve got to have all those things and schedule your diary and motivate yourself. So creatives have to be resilient. That’s not something anyone can just learn, you just have to have that bird’s eye view every time you’re rejected.
It’s a big ask.
Q> Do you think the creative mind is something you’re born with, or something that’s learned, developed and nurtured over time?
Rankin> The digital revolution means lots of people have access to tools that allow them to feel creative. Everyone has a smartphone, so they think they’re Scorsese or Coppola.
They believe they’re a creative, because they’re a creator.
I do think you can nurture creativity: All audiences have the capacity to be creative. But that can also undermine the talent of people who are inherently creative.
Q> Is there something specific that inspires your creativity?
Rankin> Boredom is at the base of it.
I have to switch off from everything, apart from maybe books. Books don’t take up the same space as watching something, or being online. They inspire as opposed to distract.
Creativity doesn’t usually come when I’m at work. It comes in between: in the shower, washing the dishes, driving the car. That’s when my brain is really interesting, when I’m not trying to entertain myself. Then two new things collide, and I find this serendipitous moment for creativity.
Q> How do you think the modern world is changing what creativity looks like, if at all?
Rankin> It’s like a hand grenade has gone off in our culture: It’s almost a revolution.
The democratisation of photography and film means people who’ve never had access to this stuff now do, which is fascinating. I have to keep telling filmmakers to get on TikTok, because you can learn things from TikTok.
But I’m surprised when people don’t know their history of film, art or photography. As a young photographer, my peers would’ve thought I was a joke if I hadn’t.
You’ve got to learn from both periods. You need to have one foot in the past, and one in the future: then you’re the midpoint.
We’ve probably got another two to three years, then Web3 and mixed reality will kick in, and we’ll lose even more history! But truly creative people always want to learn, so hopefully they will rediscover it.
It’s like any kind of revolution.
Q> Have you seen a piece of work that you feel exemplifies how the creative mind looks at things differently?
Rankin> A lot of work done by creators (and sadly some creatives and brands) has a very similar, same-y tone of voice. It’s trend driven based on what they’ve seen on social platforms.
But with true photography and photographers, taking a picture and making a picture are very different things. So if you were to take photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Nadav Kander or humbly myself; if you look at someone we’ve all photographed, you will notice a similarity of intention, but the way we all execute, is so different.
You have to fight for that type of creativity these days. For the time and space to make a picture, not just take one. To create something new, not just emulate what’s fashionable or an easy button on an app.
Q> How do you think technology like GENIE enables creativity to thrive, if at all?
Rankin> You might think I’m negative about technology, but I’m actually really excited by it. Technology like GENIE allows people to take ownership of their destiny.
I have a creative services company, RANKIN CREATIVE and I know certain clients need me to be a guardian of their brand. Bread and butter advertising doesn’t necessarily need that, but we’re about brands that want to develop. Especially as audiences are demanding brands become more like people.
So technology like this is exciting for the creatives, and the clients.
This article was originally published in LBB on 26th September 2022.