Tag Archives: Rankin

Photo Stroll LOOK13 Liverpool International Photography Festival Pt 1 – Rankin’s Alive: In the Face of Death

The second edition of LOOK13 Liverpool International Festival (17 May -15 June 2013) opened in May and closed this weekend, but you can still catch some of  the exhibitions taking place in Liverpool.

In collaboration with some of Liverpoolʼs well-known museums and galleries, LOOK/13 presented “a diverse programme of contemporary and historical exhibitions” that includes new work by the portrait photographer Rankin, Alive: In the Face of Death (until 15 September) at the Walker Art Gallery in a show in which he “sets out to explore and challenge our perceptions of death”; rarely-seen early photographs by Martin Parr and Tom Wood in Every Man and Woman is a Star (until 18 August), and Double Take: Portraits from the Keith Medley archive (15 September). Bringing together influential and established photographers, presented alongside international emerging talent, LOOK/13 explored ideas of subjectivity and selfhood, based around the question, ʻwho do you think you are?ʼ.

Today’s post is a Photo Stroll through, Alive: In the Face of Death – a slick offering encompassing a diverse range of photographic approaches to the subject of death, which will also be the subject of a BBC2 Culture Show documentary this summer. The Walker Art Gallery is impressive and the space given over to the show is substantial – there’s even a wall for visitors to record their responses to the show with coloured post-it notes and details of The Dying Matters coalition, an organisation that seeks to encourage more open discussion around dying, death, and bereavement.

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Alongside portraits of those who are terminally ill, or who have faced death, are photographs of people whose business is death  – from a gravedigger and the only UK maker of death masks, to a studio where the ashes of a loved one can be incorporated into cremation tattoos. Rankin’s own responses to the subject feature too, reflected in a series of self portrait, as well as in his ‘life’ masks, including the one captioned, Michael Jackson, which caused some confusion.

From skulls – whether they are Vanitas, Day of the Dead, Damien Hirst or Salvador Dali-influenced ones – to ‘life’ masks, Rankin hones in on familiar symbols of death, borrows heavily from them and then offers back his collection of works beautifully packaged. His heart-shaped display Anne + Roy is a tribute to his now dead parents and the variously-sized photos of his parents mirrors the ongoing fashion in contemporay photography for the vernacular, the personal archive and the family album. Death is an emotive, and often gloomy, subject but in Alive: In the Face of Death, Rankin celebrates life.


Photo News – Norwich University of the Creative Arts student Simon Bell recognised in annual D&AD awards

Photos above and below: © Simon Bell

In June I was invited to give a talk to photo degree students, across all years, at Norwich University for the Creative Arts (NUCA), and in the afternoon, I looked at third-year students’ portfolios.

Some of the students took the initiative to speak to me afterwards and contact me by email with feedback and some questions. One of the photographic briefs given to the students was to enter the D&AD student awards with a task set by celebrity and portrait photographer Rankin, who took the black-and-white portrait of me that I use for social media purposes.

Congratulations to NUCA student Simon Bell who scooped the Best of Year Award. “This is something like a Special Commendation,” Bell says, “and is awarded to work that has taken a particular aspect of the criteria and developed it to a point of excellence making it worthy of a special mention.”

This year’s brief was “to find a way of making a 2D image appear more 3D” and to create an image that “doesn’t appear flat – which has depth, texture, life – it jumps out of the page at you”. The international competition is open to students and was judged this year by Rankin and Nadav Kander. D&AD‘s remit is “to inform, educate and inspire those who work in and around the creative industries”.

Of his working practice Bell writes: “Having had a mostly scientific and mathematical educational background, prior to university, I find my work and photographic interests centre around the themes of geometry, order and shape. These themes I translate into visual elements of pattern, line and space to create geometric and abstract images.

“Whilst maintaining these ideals within all of my work, I exploit the subject matter of my surroundings in an attempt to attribute new meaning, to otherwise dull situations.”