NEW YORK — The maiden U.S. exhibition of famed Britpop photographer Rankin promises to be a funky affair: The show, featuring some 270 photos, is situated in an abandoned firehouse in lower Manhattan. Six hundred guests are expected at Wednesday’s party, including the Osbournes; Sophie Dahl, and Jefferson Hack, Kate Moss’ beau, Rankin’s longtime mate and publisher of Dazed & Confused and Another magazines. Rankin himself is co-publisher of three magazines: Another, Dazed & Confused, and the new fashion/automobile title Intersection.

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Rankin, whose kinetic portraits of (mostly British) celebrities ranging from Jude Law to Patsy Kensit to Queen Elizabeth (who Rankin shot last November for the Jubilee) distinguish themselves by the contorted hand activity of most of his subjects. Indeed, celebs posing for Rankin often look like fun-loving migraine headache sufferers. “I see hands as much an expression of people as their faces,” he said. “Also, letting them fidget and make faces during a shoot actually helps them relax.”

The hyperkinetic photographer also discussed his influences — which range from Avedon to Ansel Adams. “It’s tricky to talk about who you like, because you often discover a photographer’s work only after you’ve done something very similar to them,” he said. “That’s what happened to me with Guy Bourdin. I also did a version of that Weejee shot of a person jumping out a window. I loved the idea that you’re so obsessed with fashion that you’d kill yourself or someone else.”

His show is divided into four thematic spaces. “Snog” consists of close-up images of kissing couples; “Breeding” is made up of aluminum close-cropped portrait shots, and “Girls on Top” is a room of nudes, ranging from celebrities like Moss to everyday people in the nude, whom Rankin recruited through an ad in Time Out London. “It attracted a lot of interesting nude people, including a strange German woman who wanted to spill condiments on herself,” he explained. The largest space is devoted to work drawn from his current book CelebBritation, including portraits of U2, Madonna, Damien Hirst, and Helena Christensen.

He’s also busy with sundry other projects. “I shot Tommy Hilfiger for `Pop’ magazine, Jennifer Aniston for Esquire, and other musicians — including De La Soul and the European band The Hives — for an upcoming Vanity Fair issue.” Rankin has previously worked for Vanity Fair, most recently shooting U2 for its November 2001 music issue. Late last week, he was fresh from shooting Sharon Osbourne for Vanity Fair. “She was great,” he enthused. “She was telling me about how she met Camilla Parker Bowles and was saying to her, `you’re so f—ing beautiful.” (Which contrasts mightily to her husband Ozzy’s view. The singer scandalized the audience celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee last week by saying that Parker Bowles had a “face like a sack of s–t.””)”

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