Queen Elizabeth looks pretty similar in most photos — you’ve probably seen her perfectly-poised pose time and time again.
But celebrity photographer Rankin saw a different side of Her Majesty when he photographed her at Buckingham Palace for her Golden Jubilee in 2002 — and the image he captured has become one of her most unique.
INSIDER spoke to Rankin, full name John Rankin Waddell, ahead of the launch of his new book, UNFASHIONABLE, which hits stores on October 30.
As co-founder of magazines Dazed + Confused and AnOther, and founder of Hunger, Rankin’s career in photography spans more than 30 years. He has shot covers for the likes of Vogue, GQ, and Rolling Stone and iconic brand campaigns for Nike, L’Oreal, and Dove, working with some of the most famous people in the world, including Heidi Klum, Gigi Hadid, Russell Crowe, and Kate Moss.
‘I can’t imagine having no choice’
The Scottish-born photographer told INSIDER that he wasn’t born a big supporter of the royal family growing up, who are thought of as “English.”
“I was brought up to treat everybody as an equal,” he said. “I try and judge people by who they are.”
However, he said that after doing research on Her Majesty before the shoot — something he rarely does with a subject — he realised there’s something that makes her different to all of the other celebrities he works with.
“Most people I photograph want to be famous and successful,” he said. “She had no choice. She was born into it… She wasn’t supposed to be the queen. Her dad became king and consequently, she became queen.
“The respect you’ve got to give somebody for having commitment to God and country in that way is a really interesting perspective to have,” he went on. “When you suddenly realise that, and consider the human being behind everybody, it made me have this tremendous respect for her.
“I can’t imagine having no choice — it gave me an absolute belief in her as being an incredible human being.”
‘Ma’am, would you just smile please?’
Of his experience at Buckingham Palace, he said: “I was waiting for her in [a] room with three or four people from the house. I saw her walking down this really long hallway with a footman who must have been two feet taller than her. They were both walking along chatting and laughing, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, she’s human.'”
He said an “amazing wave of power came with her” when she walked in the door.
“We had a chat, she was very funny,” he said. “I can’t remember the jokes she was making, but she had a great sense of humour. I hadn’t realised how funny she would be.”
He said at one part during the shoot, which took place in the Ballroom, something fell from his camera.
“She laughed at me,” he said. “I couldn’t take a picture for a second while my assistant was trying to put it back on, but because I’d seen her laugh, I said, ‘Ma’am, would you just smile please?’
“She smiled, and then she really smiled, then half smiled, then the shoot was over,” he said.
He shot 100 frames in four minutes, and said when he got the contact sheet back, “every picture was terrible” apart from the three where she was smiling.
“She didn’t have a lot of pictures of her smiling [at the time],” he added.
He sent versions of the portrait to the Palace, who didn’t initially think it was “appropriate” for the Golden Jubilee.
However, in one version he had put a Union Jack behind her.
He got a note saying that Her Majesty liked the stitching on the picture, which was the closest thing to saying she actually liked the photo of her, according to Rankin.
“She can’t say she likes the picture of herself because she’s the queen,” he added.
The Palace ultimately let him use the photo, which was displayed at Windsor Castle and the National Portrait Gallery along with snapshots taken by nine other photographers who were invited to shoot Her Majesty for the occasion.
“It was such a cool experience I had with them,” Rankin said, adding that he has also worked with Prince William.
“He was really lovely,” he said. “I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the royal family.
“Everyone thinks they’re born with a silver spoon — but Prince Philip has only just stopped working.”
Turning Trump ‘pink or orange’
And he’s not done shooting world leaders.
“I’d love to photograph Obama,” he told INSIDER. “[And] I’d kind of like to photograph Trump, only because I’m a little bit sick,” he jokes.
When asked why Trump was of interest, he said: “I’ve never thought it through. My job is to uncover stuff in people as a portrait photographer. I’d maybe turn him pink or orange… [but] I don’t think you should make decisions not to do something because of your political perspective.”
He added that he’d also love to photograph Putin.
“One of my friends photographed him and it’s such an interesting photograph,” he said. “Good photographers reveal.”
His ultimate bucket list celebrity is Sean Penn, though. “I really love Sean Penn,” he added.
He recently worked with Russell Crow, who he said he “can’t get enough” of.
However, he said the most interesting person he’s ever shot is Robert Downey Jr.
“He is on another level, he’s absolutely delightful,” he said. “He’s like a comedian. I photographed him recently and said ‘I don’t know anyone else who is quite as funny as you, you could be a comedian.’
“He said: ‘What do you think I’m doing now?'”
He added that he also loves working with Heidi Klum who has “such great energy.”
“She’s really creative,” he said. “Such a clever, creative person.
“People think of the supermodels as faces — [but] they have to be really smart to be up there doing that. I’ve got loads of respect for them.”
‘I don’t put people on pedestals’
Having worked with so many A-listers, he says the key to gaining their trust is simply being real with them.
“I did this thing pre publicists. The real kind of heavyweight publishers now who can kill pictures, stop you featuring stuff, make you sign NDAs,” he said.
“My decision as a portrait photographer was to collaborate. Because I’ve come at it right at the beginning, I’ve got a good reputation of not wanting to abuse the situation. I really think that helped me.
“They know they can trust me… I don’t put people on pedestals. I treat them as human beings. I take the mickey out of myself and try to make them comfortable, try not to gossip, and have a bit of a laugh.
“Just be real with people. I think that really helps.”