Portrait Positive: Rankin reimagines beauty


He’s best known for photographing high profile figures including David Bowie, Kate Moss, Vivienne Westwood and, last but not least, the Queen.

Now, in an effort to change dominant perceptions of beauty, Rankin turns his formidable lens on a new subject: those with facial disfigurements.

One in every 111 people in the UK has a facial disfigurement, ranging from a scar to congenital conditions that affect the shape of head and facial features.

And if physical difference is one outcome, the emotional impact can be equally complex and debilitating.

Portrait Positive is a collaborative project between Rankin and Changing Faces, a charity that helps those with facial disfigurements regain confidence and self-esteem.


Devised by event co-ordinator Stephen Bell and fashion designer Steven Tai, Rankin’s series of portraits will help redefine how beauty is seen in fashion and beyond.

The sitters are women who live with a disfigurement, including Brenda Finn, whose hair fell out when she was 14.

“In today’s society, hair is seen as being strong, beautiful and powerful,” she told ITV, earlier this year. “It's advertised in such a way that people like me are made to feel small about how we look. But one in every 111 people in the UK has a visible difference so the fundamentals of beauty and fashion are very outdated. They need to change - and that won’t happen until people like me step forward.”

Another of the models, Phyllida Swift, has a facial scar following a car crash.

“Without even realising it, we’re so influenced by what the media thinks is the idea of beauty,” she said. “I think it's so good to break down that stereotype and embrace women for their difference."

Rankin is known for putting sitters at ease, allowing personalities to shine through. Brenda felt the magic: "I was really nervous beforehand as I didn't know what to expect but my confidence has rocketed by a zillion miles!”

The photos will be published in a book next year. For more information, go to www.changingfaces.org.uk