Behind the scenes at Rankin Live!

Earlier this year, I found out that the awesome talent that is Rankin would be holding a major retrospective exhibition in London, part of which would be devoted to a new project. I went to his website and discovered that:

Rankin is kicking off 2009 by inviting people across the UK to participate in his most ambitious project to date; Rankin Live! Using the latest in cutting edge technology he will shoot and instantly print the portraits of 1,000 Brits on site at his museum scale exhibition in August.

Now this was something I had to be a part of! In April, I got my act together and emailed a photo with a little description of why I wanted to take part and then sat back and waited. Once the exhibition started, I figured I hadn’t been chosen and so simply planned to visit the show at some point over the summer. Then last week I received an email inviting me to pop along to the Old Truman Brewery for a photoshoot with one of the most famous photographers on the planet. I didn’t quite believe it was real until I got there.

Just before 6pm yesterday, Beth and I arrived at the exhibition, trying to contain our Rankin fangirl excitement. I wasn’t sure if it was OK to bring a friend along, but everyone assured us it was fine and soon we were being escorted through the gallery to the studio area, past images of Madonna, Kate Moss, Ewan McGregor and Tony Blair. After giving some details to a cute girl with a clipboard, we found a spare sofa and I set about adding the finishing touches to my outfit. I’d been wearing my Vivien of Holloway dress all day, but now came the time to add the petticoats, slip on my white shoes and adjust my Sakura headwear.

We were then handed an ice cold beer (much appreciated in yesterday’s heat!), and one of Rankin’s assistants popped over with a hairdresser to look at how to style my hair. Unfortunately for me hair was usually done after make-up and so, once my side ponytail was in place and I went back to chatting with Beth, they promptly forgot that I hadn’t had my make-up done. Time went on and I could sense that I was probably up soon, so I started putting some foundation on to save time. Halfway through pencilling one eyebrow, the assistant was back… it was my turn!

After much apologising, and what was quite possibly the quickest photoshoot make-up in history (can’t remember the guy’s name but he did a great job under pressure!), I was standing in front of one of Rankin’s assistants and trying to relax in front of the camera before the boss man showed up. Thankfully, the slightly extended Dorito-munching break seemed to have helped and, even though it was now after 8pm, Rankin was raring to go.

The assistant had been taking some full-length shots and so Rankin asked if that was what I wanted, to get the dress in. “Unless you think my face is so good you have to do head-shots”, I joked. Lo and behold, we started with head-shots! Not sure if he was just humouring me, but it certainly felt good. After a few of those, he went to look through them on a computer screen and called me over to take a peek. What I didn’t realise at this point was that the shots he was taking were being projected onto a huge screen in the exhibition as they were captured. There was no one around by this point as the exhibition had closed for the evening, but Beth and the crew were busily checking me out, larger than life!

Next we tried some full-body shots and, to get some movement in my dress, two assistants aimed large and rather cooling fans up my skirt. One moment I felt like Marilyn Monroe and the next, the realisation hit that Rankin himself was on the floor at my feet while three assistants pointed lights, reflectors and wind machines at me (see photo above). How many people can say that, eh? After that point, I really couldn’t stop smiling! “Chin out and down… lean towards me… shoulders up” – I didn’t realise being a model would involve so much concentration.

Two sets of shots later, we sat to choose a final one. I liked so many that I was pretty happy for him to decide, but we came to an agreement and then the assistants started work with a few tweaks. I am pleased to report that my legs were lengthened ever so slightly, and it was rather cool to watch it on screen too. After a 20 minute look around the exhibition, we then popped back to the studio to collect my two prints and I was done.

I had my photograph taken by a world-famous photographer whose work I admire, will appear in the exhibition and (sometime soon) on the website, plus I have a print of my own to keep, but do you know what the best bit was? Rankin told me he was pleased someone had turned up in a decent outfit as he was sick of doing head-shots. I think that would be classed as an epic win.

UPDATE: I’ve scanned my Rankin print now and have shared it above so that you can see the finished result. The photo at the top of the post was kindly snapped by the lovely Beth Anderson.