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Interview with Rankin

Interview with Rankin - Jane Hobson joins Rankin at the BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur competition 2009 awards ceremony.

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As the ultimate photographic entrepreneur, Rankin was the perfect choice for capturing the images, and essence, of the winners in the BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur competition 2009.

The award ceremony was conducted last night (27th January 2010) at the Oxo Gallery on London’s South Bank and was thronged with the winners and their friends and family.

The atmosphere was lively and there was tangible excitement in the room as the photographs were examined, drinks were sipped and the 20 winners awaited the presentation of their prizes by Dragon’s Den’s, Peter Jones. He gave an inspiring speech about the value of entrepreneurial skills and how the winners demonstrated this.
Peter Jones, judge of the BT Inspiring Entrepreneurs awards 2009, speaking at the award ceremony.
Peter Jones, judge of the BT Business Essence of the Entrepreneur awards 2009, speaking at the award ceremony.
The photographs were a textbook demonstration of capturing the essence of a person and their business in a portrait. If only it were that easy though! All showed some aspect of not only personality but also indicated what the business was all about. A personal favourite of mine was the dual portrait of the two young men who had set up a jelly business – Bompas & Parr – with jellies on their heads and obviously having a great time whilst shooting. It’s an infectiously fun-filled portrait. They create jellies of whatever flavour, size and shape to order, including amazing one-offs such as a glow-in-the-dark funeral jelly installation as part of the “Sensate: Bodies and Design” exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (www.jellymongers.co.uk) A fabulous example of the possibility of having huge fun at work while also turning a profit! Fabulously bonkers and utterly delightful!
© Rankin.

Bompas and Parr receive their award from BT and Dragon’s Den’s Peter Jones (right).
Bompas and Parr receive their award from BT and Dragon’s Den’s Peter Jones (right).

Rankin was delightful too and hugely enthusiastic about the entrepreneurs and the exhibition.
I caught up with him just before the award ceremony and asked him what it was like to shoot the winners.

"I always have fun shooting wherever I’m shooting but I like the idea that I’ve got to completely visualize, to create an image that represents a business idea. I like entrepreneurs – I feel like I have an affinity with them. I have a real admiration for their passion and their charm. They’re fantastic people. They’re not like other business people – other business people are held down by convention and rules. These guys aren’t – they’re pushing the boundaries, they’re the creative ones. So doing it gave me a great potential to interact with people who are similar to me in a way."

As he rightly identified, Rankin is an über-entrepreneur himself so it seemed natural to ask him for advice for photographers on self-promotion, whether just starting out or having already established themselves in business. He said:

"That’s difficult because there’s a big difference between starting out and being in the game. I think starting out, in terms of business, you need to find yourself a good agent. If you can’t find an agent you need to give yourself a project, do that project, do it for yourself, don’t do it for anyone else, don’t do it like anybody else, don’t rip anyone off, try to find something original, unique. Believe in it. Do it. Then you need to PR the f**k out of it to as many people as you know. The ripples of that will always come back to you. Do a brochure, do a website, it’s not hard to get emails of everyone you want to work for - you just need to put a bit of time and effort in. It’s not hard to write an email or do a letter and send it out to these people and say “this is me, this is what I do, would you see me, would you like to meet me? This is what I’ve been doing”. If you have humility and you ask someone’s opinion on something you will get more out of it than if you go in and say “this is what I’ve done” and look for recognition. You’ll get an honest response that will help you and people won’t think you’re a w****r. If you’re in the business already it’s too easy to fall into the trap of work, work, work. If that’s all you do you’ll never love it. You’ll always have a cynical edge to it. If you do that you’ll always feel that it’s work so you have to keep challenging yourself. You’ve got to push yourself to do better work. Make sure you do something for yourself on every shoot."

In the spirit of the event and conversation, I then went on to ask if he would attend our degree show this June (it was a ‘no’ but I had to ask!) and if I could gain some experience by assisting him. This is a more achievable aim, apparently! I now need to contact his producer to see if there’s an opportunity for me. Watch this space – the next article could be on what it’s like to assist a world-class photographer! Fingers crossed.

Do go and have a look at the exhibition. It’s on now at the Oxo Gallery, at the foot of the Oxo Tower, Bargehouse Street, on London’s South Bank until February 28th. Nearest tube, Waterloo, then a lovely riverside walk.

To find out more, visit www.bt.com/entrepreneur.
Rankin at the  BT Inspiring Entrepreneurs awards 2009
Words and pictures by Jane Hobson.
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