We speak to the photographer about his new project “Portrait Positive"
Photographer and Dazed co-founder Rankin is known for his pioneering and uncompromising work. Whether photographing the Queen or the women in Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, his portraits aim to capture the person behind the façade.
Now Rankin’s turned his lens to a new project: Portrait Positive. Comprised of a series of striking images meant to challenge perceptions of beauty, the project documents 16 women with “visible facial and bodily differences.” Conceived by Stephen Bell, who was born with Syndactyly - a condition where two or more of your digits are fused together - and designer Steven Tai, they specifically turned to Rankin to shoot the portraits.
“When Steven approached me to work on this project I just jumped at it,” Rankin says. “I’ve been taking pictures of empowerment and diversity for years and this felt like another massive step forward to doing something positive with a great group of people. Being in front of any camera can feel like being under a microscope, so I am always conscious of trying to make people feel comfortable. The fearlessness [of the women] reignited my belief that beauty can be a positive force in expressing your individuality and uniqueness.”
Among the women modelling for the project is Raiché, who survived 70% burns from a house fire at the age of 18 months, and Brenda who suffers from alopecia universals. “Society constructs concepts and rules about what makes a person ‘beautiful,’" says Brenda, "but that’s all it is – a construction, not a reality. Portrait Positive is about breaking down those concepts.”
The portraits have been collated into a book, the proceeds of which will all go to support the Changing Faces, the UK’s leading charity for people with visible differences. Designed by Carter Studio, the Portrait Positive book is on sale on the Portrait Positive website and across selected stores and art spaces around the UK.
Book Design: Carter Studio