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British photographer Rankin launches a gallery on Melrose

May 30, 2011 |  7:34 am

-2 Minnie Driver, Kelis and Jeremy Scott were among the notables who toasted the opening of the new Rankin Gallery on Thursday night.

The new space, at 8070 Melrose Ave., was created by fashion and art photographer — and Dazed & Confused magazine co-owner— John Rankin Waddell (known professionally and personally as Rankin) to showcase his own vast body of work.

The gallery, which opened in conjunction with the Fahey / Klein gallery, is the second for the photographer, who also has a space in his native London.

The gallery has opened with the aptly titled "Open Rankin" show —  a retrospective of his striking work from the last two decades.

We caught up with the photographer for a quick chat about the show, Los Angeles and his elegant new digs:

All the Rage: Why did you decide to open a gallery in Los Angeles?

Rankin: I’ve been coming to Los Angeles for years because I’ve always been a portrait photographer as my bread-and-butter job — and there are lots of portraits to be taken in Los Angeles.

From the first time I came here, I loved the weather and light. Everything about the city is so much calmer than living in London. For me, it’s like coming somewhere and being able to calm down and contemplate what you do. And everyone is very friendly here.There's also a massive ex-pat community too. You meet all these people in some ways you wouldn't normally.

It’s also got a lovely work ethic. You finish at five or six o'clock and you take a nice dinner. Los Angeles has a very community feel to it. [People] get this idea that it’s something that it isn’t. Over the years I started to see it as a second home. I thought, "If I’m going to set up somewhere else, this is the natural place to come." And the art market is getting big here.

Tell me about the show.

RankinLivTylerI guess it’s a greatest hits of my work from the past 20 years. It ranges from fashion work to portraits. There are a few portraits, but they’re a little more unusual than glossy magazine covers. It’s really some of the shots that I’ve been the happiest with.

There aren't a lot of celebrity photos because that's kind of like taking coal to Newcastle [a former coal hub]. There are a few in there; there's a lovely picture of Kate Winslet, where she’s sticking her tongue out after "Heavenly Creatures." There are also some naughty nudes. But it’s all very tasteful.

Just curious — why did you open in L.A. over New York?

New York is almost so similar to London that it’s pointless taking what I do in London and doing it there. They have very similar scenes. Also, I just love having the ability to go and take photos outside here, which is really unique for a photographer like me who works solidly in London. To have a space here and then go out around the city ... there’s every location you can possibly imagine.

Also, this town is set up to make movies and take photographs. It’s a very professional town to work in. People have a "Yes, can do" attitude, as opposed to a "No, it’s too difficult" attitude.

And really, I always enjoy myself here. I’ve never come here and not had an enjoyable time.

-- Emili Vesilind

Photos, from top: Beth Ditto and Liv Tyler, both by Rankin. Credit: Rankin.