The photographer fit for a King
Exclusive interview with Rankin on his storied career and working with 'charming' King Charles
Hi everyone! You may remember my post earlier this month about King Charles starring on the cover of The Big Issue in celebration of his 75th birthday and his food waste initiative, The Coronation Food Project.
The striking portrait was shot by none other than Rankin, and guess who I had the pleasure of interviewing shortly after the magazine went on sale… no, not the King (sadly), but Rankin himself!
For those who may not be familiar with the creative giant, Rankin’s back catalogue contains enough major stars to warrant its own module in an astronomy degree.
He's captured literally everyone from the late Queen Elizabeth II to the Queen of Pop, Madonna, as well as Britney Spears, Kate Moss, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Kylie Minogue, Tony Blair, Cristiano Ronaldo, Leonardo DiCaprio, The Spice Girls… you get the picture. He has yet to photograph a US President though, which he told me is his dream.
Rankin was asked fairly last-minute to photograph King Charles at his London residence, Clarence House, but for this "working-class kid from Scotland" (his words, not mine), it was a real honour and a privilege.
"It's always exciting to have a front row seat on history," Rankin told me. "When I was photographing the King, I kept saying to my team to soak it up, whether they are monarchists or not. It doesn't really matter, we're making a part of history and that's a real honour."
Take it away Rankin…
Making history with King Charles
"I learnt very early on to not have expectations of what anybody is going to be like when you photograph them. That doesn't mean I haven't researched my subjects. The King though – he was exactly who you'd want him to be.
"He was very charming, very engaged, and very comfortable chatting to everybody. He was asking the team, who are quite young, lots of questions, like 'Are you becoming photographers?' He was very well put-together, he has his own style.
"I had 30 minutes with him and it was all really relaxed. What I loved was the team around him. He didn't have a big entourage as you might expect. His people definitely made me feel like they were confident that I would take a good picture and I felt that all the way through, that we were there to do something together as a team.
"The best famous people I've worked with are the ones that make it feel like they're collaborating with you, rather than you working for them. They're always the A-Listers. And King Charles understood that I was there to do a job. I wasn't just a snapper or a paparazzo, you're doing something that has a bit more depth.
"I did it pro bono for The Big Issue and I really believe the food waste initiative is a really important one, so I just felt very honoured to be a part of it. That feeling of, 'Oh my God, I'm getting this opportunity to photograph a King,' that's something that will last forever.
"Afterwards when The Big Issue came out, we bought a load of copies from one vendor who said it was selling really well, so it was really sweet to hear that. Maybe he was just saying that because we bought 40 copies from him at full price!"
I was nervous photographing the Queen
"Unlike my time with the King, I was only given five minutes with his mother, the late Queen. I went to Buckingham Palace and I don't usually get nervous photographing celebrities, but this really was my first experience of photographing someone on that level, so I was a bit.
"She made me feel very comfortable straight away though, and that made me feel confident that I would do a good job. The Queen really understood what I did, as did King Charles.
"The royals are always super professional. The best in class. I'm hoping I'll get another phone call if I'm honest."
Zara Tindall was ace
"I've also photographed Prince William and Zara Tindall. I loved Zara. She was ace. She was funny and she's got a great sense of humour. It's refreshing when people don't have to be nice to you, but they are.
"With the royals, they're there for us. There's an element of service that I have a lot of respect and admiration for. I've had much worse experiences with pop stars and film stars who are demanding and act like a princess, compared to any of the royal family I've ever met.
"I realised very early on that my job is to photograph people, not because I like them, but because that is my job and I'm documenting a lot of people that are very famous in my time. And when you realise that, it's important.
"My job is to be in the moment with that person and show them the way that I see them."
Wow! It sounds like an incredible experience and opportunity to have that front row seat on history, as Rankin says. I told him if he ever wanted to photograph a mere mortal like myself, I'd be willing.
Before you go, we have an exciting competition for our paid subscribers. You could be in with the chance of winning a photoshoot session with Rankin himself. Details of the competition will be announced soon, so make sure you hit the subscribe button below.