Pin It
Feel It (2000)
© Rankin

Rankin reveals the stories behind Dazed’s most provocative photography

In the wake of his exhibition Rankin: The Dazed Decades, we speak to the legendary photographer and Dazed’s co-founder about shooting some of the magazine’s most enduring imagery

The 1990s is largely remembered as a time of cultural renaissance in Britain. As epitomised in the current exhibition Rankin: The Dazed Decades, this was an era in which it felt to those in its thrall that British music, fashion and art was once again as revered as it had been in the 1960s. “This was a heightened time when Swinging London really did seem important again,” writes Dylan Jones in Faster Than a Cannonball, his incisive excavation of the history of the year 1995. “[It was] a period when ‘Brit’ very quickly became the only acceptable prefix for cultural insurrection.” With London at its centrifugal core – a thriving scene characterised by picaresque indie kids, artists, and creatives, starting up bands, magazines and fashion brands – the middle of the decade was arguably the peak of its febrile creativity and the pervasive sense of self-confidence that gripped the nation.

Yet at the start of the decade, the future hadn’t necessarily looked so rosy. Emerging from the 1980s – simultaneously deluxe and barren – the cultural landscape ahead was burgeoning but as yet undetermined. The future was stirring in the ruins and, in those inaugural moments of the 90s, a new publication was being conceived of in the common room of the London College of Print [now the LCC] that would play a crucial role in the shaping and chronicling of the golden years to come. Founded by Jefferson Hack [then 18] and Rankin Wadell [23], the first issue of Dazed & Confused began with the alluring tagline, “This is not a magazine. This is not a conspiracy to force opinion into the subconscious of stylish young people. A synthetic leisure culture is developing – plastic people force-fed on canned entertainment and designer food. Are you ready to be Dazed & Confused?”

An antidote to the glossy excesses of the 80s, Dazed & Confused was a rebellious, upstart enterprise. “We wanted to go against the grain of a lot of the elitism of magazines,” Rankin recalls in a recent conversation over Zoom. “We were kids making magazines for the student union and we did everything. We literally did every single part of that magazine. We were very much children of a period where we were influenced by punk and its DIY culture, but also the idea of not expecting anyone to give us anything on a plate. We financed a lot of it by doing a party because we got into the club scene, and that really was the making of us. I think that our student experience made us realise that, actually, we could go and work for other style publications, but how amazing would it be to just try and do it on our own?”

“We wanted to go against the grain of a lot of the elitism of magazines” – Rankin

The duo quickly recruited Katie Grand (the now-renowned editor of Perfect Magazine, previously at LOVE and POP). With Rankin shooting all the photographs, Hack writing all the words and Grand in charge of fashion, they forged ahead. The team would later also include Alister Mackie, Katy England and Cathy Edwards, but initially the three founding members of the team were accountable for every aspect of its creation and dissemination. Through their ever-growing constellation of contacts, they managed to secure cover stars for future issues including the likes of Bowie, Beck and Bono. And, over the years, their friendships with figures such as Björk, Blur, Portishead, Pulp, Oasis, Jake and Dinos Chapman and Damien Hirst ensured the pages were attuned to the zeitgeist of the day.

“I don’t think either of us thought it would last more than a few issues,” Rankin laughs. Over three decades later, Dazed Media continues to operate on those same guiding principles. “There is actually a manifesto on the first issue,” he says. “I read it the other day and I was like, ‘Shit, we really did mean business.’ And we stuck to it…”

Rankin: The Dazed Decades [currently running at Scharpoord Cultural Centre, Belgium] is the exhibition displaying some of Rankin’s most provocative and era-defining images. Below, the photographer shares some memories from some of the most enduring portraits featured in the show.

Rankin: The Dazed Decades currently running at Scharpoord Cultural Centre, Knokke-Heist, Belgium, until June 11 2023.

Join Dazed Club and be part of our world! You get exclusive access to events, parties, festivals and our editors, as well as a free subscription to Dazed for a year. Join for £5/month today.