By Filep Motwary
Rankin is one of the world’s leading photographers who has spent over 30 solid years photographing pop-culture icons, inventing or questioning trends, always restless to anything new and undiscovered. Aside from his affiliation to magazines such as Dazed&Confuzed, AnotherMagazine and Hunger, Rankin is an avid publisher with a quite long bibliography counting over 30 publications. He always manages to trigger our interest and intrigue. His last project, titled F*CK Y*U is a testimony of a very specific gesture, once again putting us in uncomfortable mode.
Giving the finger, flipping the bird, up yours! For hundreds of years the middle finger (or two if you’re from Great Britain) has been the wordless insult of choice for people the world over – regardless of what phraseology you choose to accompany it. And it’s this age-old sign that Rankin has chosen to focus on in his latest book, F*ck Y*u.
Known for his tongue-in-cheek humor, Rankin is used to the odd insult, and has been goading celebrities into giving him the finger for years.
But it was a particular shot he had taken of Heidi Klum flipping the bird, published in a book, then ripped off by enterprising T-Shirt manufacturers that made this image iconic and planted the seed for what was later to become F*ck Y*u. Rankin recalls; “The first time I saw someone wearing the t-shirt was when I was dropping my son off at school. The crazy point for me was going on holiday to Thailand, it felt like every other person was wearing one of my photos of Heidi giving me the finger!”
On the advice of his French gallerist Arnaud Adida, Rankin has delved into his archives to bring these uniquely profane images to the fore, creating a series of portraits featuring subjects as diverse as; Eva Green, Damian Lewis, Cheryl, Katy Perry, Robert Downey Jr., Gillian Anderson, Diana Athill, Juno Temple, Nicholas Hoult, The Rolling Stones, Harmony Korine, Terence Conran & Paolo Nutini all flipping the bird left, right and centre.
Yet it’s not just photographic insults; the book also examines the visual language of profanity and the historical context of this impolite gesture, with comment from writers that are all too familiar with it.
Acclaimed author Irvine Welsh gives us his provocative, humorous take on the finger, while award-winning journalist Jon Savage takes us through an age of expletives and cultural broadcaster Professor Paul Rixon explores its beginnings.
Reflecting on F*ck Y*u, British writer and broadcaster Jon Savage comments; “As Rankin’s photos show, the finger is so central in today’s iconography that it has a multitude of meanings. Like many other signs, the bird has become adrift from its original context and meaning, which doesn’t mean that it has lost its original potency. The finger is expressive, but by no means simple!”
Acclaimed writer Irvine Welsh reveals; “Fuck You Rankin is, in your typical style, both playful and ironic.”
Most people who excel in their field bring a sense of fun and play into what they do, and he is no exception. Yes, I actually enjoy having my picture taken by him. This is momentous in itself. While you still know the camera is there, you kind of forget that he’s actually taking photos of you. And I don’t feel like my soul has been wrenched out my body and stolen away, just represented a little in a picture, which is nice.” F*ck Y*u was just published in October 2014.
F*CK Y*U by Rankin is on sale now and distributed in the UK by Rankin Publishing Ltd , priced £25, order your copy here