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Marco Antonio x Rankin
Plastic Rainbow-Tastic, HungerTV, 2018 Model: Kim DoCourtesy of Rankin

Rankin and Marco Antonio on the place of beauty in today’s visual culture

TextAlex Peters

The photographer and make-up artist celebrate bold beauty in new book Marco Antonio x Rankin

Renowned photographer and Dazed & Confused co-founder Rankin has teamed up with frequent collaborator make-up artist Marco Antonio on a new beauty book.

Launching on October 30, Marco Antonio x Rankin celebrates the bold and playful beauty imagery that results when the duo’s artistic visions come together in collaboration. Both known for pushing aesthetic boundaries, with Marco’s pop colour pallets and Rankin’s signature sense of humour, the images are fun, full of colour and never fail to catch your eye. 

“Over the last few years, I’ve noticed myself (and everyone around me) spending less time looking and more time scrolling past images,” Rankin says on the impetus behind the book.

“When you get excited by making an image you want people to love it and want to keep looking at it. By sharing my editorial work with Marco in book form, there is a permanence of print publishing which we’re celebrating. It’s a way of signalling how much we believe in our work and to force the viewer to slow down and really scrutinise the pictures.”

We caught up with the two artists to find out more about the book and their thoughts on the place of beauty in today’s culture.

Humour is a big part of many of the shoots. Why is that aspect so important to you? 

Rankin: I’ve always been drawn to how humour can make statements, something po-faced and serious can fail to bring any meaning across as it makes connection with messaging so much harder. I like to think of myself as a photographic storyteller, my favourite works are always the ones where I’ve had a narrative in mind, something I want people to see or feel from the images. Maybe it comes from an early interest in the macabre humour of some of Diane Arbus’s images, but for me, there is more truth in laughter than in straight-laced appreciation. 

How has the way beauty is perceived and thought of in the industry changed since you first started your career?

Rankin: My career has spanned quite a few changes in mainstream photography, so I’ve seen lots of different stages of the beauty industry. I was there when Photoshop revolutionised beauty photography and everyone was suddenly very smooth and slightly alien for a few years. I’ve seen “fashionable” facial features come and go (big eyebrows or gap-toothed models anyone?), and I’m slightly obsessed with new trends around CGI beauty and digital avatars. The biggest change though has been in the democratisation of beauty, everyone can find a type of beauty that is right for them, from the extreme to the very natural, and they all exist together online. 

Marco Antonio: I started my career almost 23 years ago back in Brazil, so you can only imagine how much has the beauty industry changed since I started my career. And with today's technology, it allows me to express my art in a variety of colours, textures and products, something that wasn't available to me decades ago. 

Why do you think beauty and make-up have seen such an incredible rise in popularity over the last few years? 

Rankin: You have to give social media the credit for the rise in interest in beauty and make-up. We’re becoming an increasingly visual culture and by sharing creativity and influences we’re creating generations of people who see beauty as a mainstream passion. I love beauty and creative make-up but the “Instagram face” (all big lips and highlighter) isn’t inspiring for me. 

We think beauty is the new fashion, in terms of young people today using makeup to express their creativity and identity in a way that used to be done through fashion and style. Would you agree?

Rankin: Definitely. I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot. Whilst I think fashion is still up there as a means of expression, make-up is its much more customisable and cheap counterpart. With beauty, hundreds of thousands of people can buy the same pallet and yet no two looks will look the same. People watch tutorials and learn technique and then apply that as their own form of self-expression. To steal a phrase from Marco “the face is a canvas” and no two people paint on it identically alike. Also since Apple brought out the selfie lens everything is ‘at arm’s length’ so of course it’s been used to identify one’s self. 

Marco Antonio: I couldn’t agree more. We are breaking out of the traditional gender roles and the lines of male and female stereotypes are blurred nowadays. The beauty industry is creating products and encouraging people to express themselves in a way we never saw before and that's super exciting. Make-up is one of the ways of expressing your identity and creativity so the beauty industry has a less direct and more of a collaborative role to play. 

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