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July 29 2014

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EXCLUSIVE: Ayami Nishimura X Rankin

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“A lot of people call me a fashion photographer and I do love fashion,” says Rankin, the Dazed & Confused co-founder whose portraiture and film and television work has been at the forefront of the rag trade’s avant-garde image game since the nineties. But the Another Magazine and Another Man publisher who recently launched the biannual glossy The Hunger, has something of a shocking confession to make: “I think that I’ve got an innate sense of beauty more than I have of fashion.” As anyone who has seen the 200-page beauty book he published with Illamasqua creative director and frequent Dazed contributor Alex Box can attest, Rankin makes a good point—which is why he has spent the better part of the last two years engrossed in pigments, paint pots, and pencils in an effort to help bring Japanese makeup artist Ayami Nishimura’s work to life.

“I’ve worked with hundreds of makeup artists and there are only a few of them that really inspire you in [this] way,” Rankin says of Nishimura, a boundary-pusher in her own right, who has been sought out by performers like M.I.A. and Lady Gaga for her special brand of no-fear face painting—and who he has been working with on Dazed shoots for about six years. “Not to say the others aren’t good, but it’s just that these guys [like Ayami] have stories to tell and they want to tell them. [She] has just got brilliant ideas; very original that really surprise you. My brief for the book was, ‘Do what you feel, Ayami. Free range—just go for it.’”

And go for it she did. “It was all about what I wanted to say and what I was interested in,” says Nishimura, the self-taught wunderkind who likes to blend traditional Japanese elements with “modern, crazy things like the colorful, full-on fashions.” The large-format tome’s subsequent pages provide a glimpse into Nishimura’s world, which focuses on the confluence of futuristic themes and the soft, innocent beauty of nature. Images range from a model with her head immersed in a tank full of multihued plastic fish (“we wanted it be fun and humorous,” Nishimura explains) to a classically stunning image of a woman with a flower covering her mouth (roses are an ongoing motif throughout the book).

The cover shot (above) was the most challenging, according to Nishimura, but also her favorite. “I wanted to do makeup like an alien. It was really difficult and we tested the formula about 15 times on my assistant. But it the end, it was really fresh and beautiful.” Rankin couldn’t agree more. “The cover kills me… [It’s] just pure genius. They’re called makeup artists, and I think they truly are artists when they’re at the top of their game,” he enthuses while revealing that he plans on staying the beauty course: Rankin’s collaboration with Nishimura marks the second in what will be a series of five books that he is currently working on with makeup artists Caroline Saulnier, Linda Öhrström and Andrew Gallimore. “It’s a genre of photography and artistry that hasn’t been mined enough.”

Ayami Nishimura by Rankin, available at www.amazon.com; Three exhibitions of photographs from the book will be at Rankin’s Annroy gallery in London from July 27 to August 31; at Rankin Gallery in Los Angeles from August 7 to September 18; and at Diesel Art Gallery in Tokyo from August 24 to November 9.

Photo: Courtesy of Rankin

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