Rankin reflects on pioneering LGBT representation with Dazed And Confused covers

Photographer Rankin has spoken of his pride in the legacy of his magazine Dazed And Confused for pioneering LGBT representation, ahead of an exhibition of his famous covers.

The British artist said he hopes his new exhibition of photos shot between 1991 and 2001 offers a time capsule of UK creativity in the 1990s.

He told the PA news agency: “This is not a greatest hits. It’s almost watching me grow up as a photographer.

Dame Helen Mirren in 1996 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)
Dame Helen Mirren in 1996 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)

“This voice of this one photographer, and you can hear it through that decade. And it’s very much going against a lot of the other things that were homogenous within the industry.”

Rankin co-founded Dazed And Confused with Jefferson Hack in 1991, with the first issue published in 1992, and the duo were heavily influenced by Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine in the US.

Across 10 years, Rankin photographed more than 200 editorial shoots for the magazine and the exhibition Back In The Dazed at London’s 180 Studios is the first UK retrospective of his works over the  decade, featuring photos of cover stars including Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue and David Bowie.

Kylie Minogue in 1994 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)
Kylie Minogue in 1994 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)

He said: “In a way Dazed was an experiment. And it was about being experimental in terms of who we were putting on the cover, what kind of covers we were doing.

“We’ve got people crying on the cover, we had an old woman, we did our old people’s shoot for the first time before anyone had done one.

“We did a thing called Big Girl’s Blouse, which was an XL model shoot that nobody had ever done. So a lot of that experimental stuff and they’re kind of my favourite pictures in a way.

“It was a bit of a Trojan horse of a magazine, it was never about reporting on stuff. It was about being part of the culture, and actually creating work within it.

Charlie Watts in 2000 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)
Charlie Watts in 2000 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)

“Having two men or two women kissing on the cover, or putting a gay black guy on the first cover, all these things are common now and everyone’s shouting about how we’ve made so many strides in representation, but we did them first with a lot of the magazines at that time.”

He added: “We were very political, but I would say with a small p, so it was body politics, identity politics, we were definitely coming from the perspective of artists.

“We would have meetings where we said, ‘this is too commercial’ or, ‘this is what everybody else would do’. So that’s why we would put out different types of covers. We did the first disabled cover with Nick Knight (the photographer).

He continued: “It would be unfair to say that ID and The Face hadn’t done similar things in the 80s, because they had, and I think that they should be totally applauded for that.

“And we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without them having done it first, but what I think we did is, we were very confrontational about it.

“We put things that wouldn’t be expected and we were not scared to do that. And I think that drew people to us.”

Sophie Ellis-Bextor in 1997 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor in 1997 (Rankin/Dazed And Confused)

Reflecting on that period, he said: “We were quite arrogant, if I’m honest about it. And I think that was one of the things that we got labelled with, that we were upstarts and a bit arrogant and very, very confident without having much to kind of go on.

“But, at the same time, that gave us the self-belief to put things in that we probably wouldn’t have done if we hadn’t been like that.”

Asked if he sees the exhibition as a time capsule of the creatives emerging in the 90s, he said: “Yes, it was amazing, and incredibly optimistic.

“And I think a lot of us, whether it was the Young British Art group, or the Cool Britannia group, or the fashion people like Stella (McCartney) and Lee McQueen (better known as late fashion designer Alexander McQueen), or the Blur guys, or Pulp, who were very much part of our story, I think we were all very optimistic.”

Back In The Dazed is at 180 Studios from May 29 to June 23.