Rankin on photographing LGBTQ stars like Alan Carr, Fat Tony and Layton Williams

Exclusive: The cultural icon speaks to Attitude - alongside rising star in photography Jordan Ross - to discuss their new Pride-inspired digi exhibit in London


Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Rankin/Jordan Ross

"My thing is: 'I'm going to pass the mic'," says photographer extraordinaire Rankin of uplifting LGBTQ talent. "That's my job."

The 56-year-old, who is straight, walks the allyship walk, too: just look at his list of collaborators for his new digital exhibit, Outernet London x Rankin Live: The Pride Sessions, available to see for free this summer at the Now Trending building at new immersive media and culture district Outernet at London's Tottenham Court Road.

Comprised exclusively of portraits of LGBTQ talent, the show also features Rankin-endorsed photographers who are members of the queer community. For example, Jordan Ross, a director at the RANKIN agency. "I couldn't be more proud of his body of work," says Rankin of his mentee.

"There's nothing worse than having a power and not passing it on"

"I'm always pushing the likes of Jordan to do stuff and feature people other that maybe people wouldn't feature," he adds. "I don't mean that in a tokenistic way. But there's nothing worse than having a power and a platform and not passing it on.

Here, Rankin recalls working with subjects including Drag Race UK's Alan Carr, DJ veteran Fat Tony and Everybody's Talking About Jamie star Layton Williams, while Jordan reflects on capturing striking portraits of artist-activist-content creator Darkwah, plus filmmaker and journalist Charlie Craggs.

Rankin on... Fat Tony

"He's great to photograph, because he's trusting, and he's creative. He's one of those people who's been around [on my radar since the 90s], but I've never known him brilliantly. But I know him through his Instagram account - and his sense of humour! Which is something I'm drawn to. How is it when I photograph people I don't know? It's harder. But because I've been doing it so long, I can pick up what someone's personality is very quickly. That's a skill people underestimate."

Jordan on... Darkwah

"I love Darkwah and everything they stand for. We're very good friends. I've known Darkwah for about seven years now. In the last two years we've worked together a lot on various projects. Darkwah is one of those people I can be like: 'I need you here to be photographed at this time!' 'Cool.' We have that trust, and an unwritten language between us. It's an amazing thing to develop that with someone. When I knew we were doing this, Darkwah was the first person on my list to get in."

Jordan on... Charlie Craggs

"I hadn't worked with Charlie for a few years, but we'd always stayed in contact. I've always loved her, working with her, talking to her. Her, Munroe Bergdorf, Yasmin Finney [from Heartstopper] - I hold them up as the gold star of, not even transgender activism, but LGBTQ activism in general. She has a rebellious and cheeky nature to her, and she's very endearing."

Rankin on... Alan Carr

"I'd photographed him once before, so I did know him. He's one of my favourite comedians. The really talented ones are funny all the time. It's brilliant, because essentially, what you're doing is capturing that. But stopping them talking is hard! Because they just want to perform! But that means they're not scared of trying stuff and go the extra mile for you. Alan doesn't seem to have any vanity, but at the same time, he's quite aesthetically interesting to photograph. I lean into that. He's a beautiful guy."

Rankin on... Layton Williams

"He was easy-peasy. Beautiful. Personality. Sense of humour. And because I'd worked with him before, that was a shoo-in. How do I feel about being photographed myself? I hate it. But one of the things I believe in is don't ask someone to do someting you wouldn't do yourself. I've made myself do nude [shoots] in the past!"