MILAN — A thing of beauty may be a joy forever, but thankfully, even the most artfully applied makeup washes off. In a new hardbound book filled with eccentric portraits, British photographer, film director and magazine publisher Rankin and makeup artist Andrew Gallimore offer their take on outlandish allure.
The book, “Andrew Gallimore by Rankin,” hits shelves Dec. 15 and will be available internationally in stores such as Barnes & Noble and Indigo Books & Music in the U.S., and Feltrinelli and Rizzoli in Italy.
Although it is not his first beauty tome, Rankin emphasized the specialness of this particular work. “[Gallimore] really thinks about the person that he’s putting the makeup on and that I’m photographing… and I think that that allows the situation to be more about the subject,” whereas in fashion photography, models are often treated as anonymous canvases, Rankin said.
“I never treat [women] as objects,” he added. “Beauty in the traditional sense is, a lot of the time, a camera on a tripod, hundreds of different lights around, and the model has to stay really still. And I find it impossible to shoot like that.” Instead, he and his assistants move constantly while working on set, striving to create a real sense of intimacy with each model.
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Gallimore, who is beauty editor at large at Rankin’s Hunger magazine and a Dior makeup ambassador, was quick to highlight the collaborative nature of the duo’s work.
“It usually starts with an idea, then I will create a mood-board of references, Rankin points out what he likes, then we develop the idea. If I have time, I will try and plan each look and preferably practice that look, too,” he noted, adding that his background in fine arts — which he studied before entering the beauty world — “means I never think the materials which I decorate a face with have to stop at lipstick, powder and pencils.”
Apropos of unconventional: The book’s most memorable images range from model Ellen Burton disguised as British pop icons such as Twiggy, Adam Ant and Annie Lennox, to shots of three models with their faces covered in meticulously applied dead butterflies and moths. The latter was part of a larger exploration of death masks — a topic Rankin first investigated in a series of portraits of terminally ill people he produced for the BBC.
“I was always really struck when I did projects with people who were terminally ill, or people who had faced death in some way, how alive they were,” Rankin explained, adding: “Photography had become this kind of selling yourself through Instagram or Facebook, and it had become less about memories, and less about what it was originally used for, which was to remember people, or a time, or a place. So I kind of wanted to reintroduce it in my own work, and into my way of thinking.”
After experimenting with death masks applied to his own face, Rankin quipped that he and Gallimore agreed to “do this with better-looking people.”
Asked about his personal favorites in the book, Gallimore cited a punk look created with studs, and another that mimicked embroidery.
“I’d had the idea of wanting the makeup to look almost sewn onto the face,” he explained. “I really liked sourcing the right colored threads and materials I needed to make the pieces, then I asked a fashion designer friend to help me using his sewing machine. I made two sets and hand-stitched the longer threads onto the second set to be blown in the wind. I wanted this to almost look a bit like ink in water.”
While Rankin has worked with a plethora of big-name brands, and would eventually like to publish a “big fat” compendium about top makeup artists and hairstylists, he admitted to viewing himself as an outsider in the fashion industry.
“But we’re all just weird kids in the corner, aren’t we, really? That’s what’s great about it,” he said.