Rankin’s Insider Guide to North London

Wed, 6 November 2019
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Ahead of his latest exhibition in Milan, the British photographer and cultural provocateur Rankin lets us in on his favourite galleries, the best cafés in Kentish Town and the benefits of looking up.

The co-founder of Dazed and Confused, who later went on to launch bi-annual publication Hunger, Rankin is one of the UK’s most revered photographers. He’s snapped everyone from Keira Knightley to Kylie Minogue and even made the Queen smile for her portrait, setting a precedent (and an exceedingly high bar) for photographers capturing HRH thereafter.

Perhaps most impressively, since 2009, Rankin has managed to whittle his commute time to under a minute. His studio is on the first floor of the building and on the fourth floor you’ll find his flat; he travels by lift to go between the two in a neat 60 seconds. Kentish Town is his base for work and play, and he has a house in the countryside for when the city gets a little too much.

A man with Rankin’s street savvy (not to mention his epic talent) is precisely the sort of chap we want to have showing us around north London. It’s been his patch of the capital for the last ten years…

Rankin’s Insider Guide to North London

What’s your favourite image you’ve taken in north London?

That’s hard since my studio is in Kentish Town – I’m shooting there all the time.

Do your surroundings impact your work?

Of course. I start each day with a walk on the Heath with my dogs and that’s my time to think. If I didn’t have that chance, if it was all concrete around me, I don’t think I could be creative.

You’re a longtime north Londoner, how has the area changed since you first settled here?

I’ve had my space in Kentish Town since about 2009 and since then it has changed a lot. Older people moved out towards Highgate and Primrose Hill and a younger generation moved in. There are creatives, other photographers, studios… it’s a great location. I would say though, we don’t really need a Pret, Costa, Starbucks and Caffè Nero all in a row…

How would you sum up your postcode’s dress code?

Lots of black. You look put-together – but trainers are still cool.

One misconception about north London is…

That it’s Instagrammable. Hollywood has everyone thinking of the Heath and cobbled streets of places like Hampstead. Actually we’ve still got a lot of “reality” – while it’s not all a great selfie backdrop, it does make life a bit more interesting.

Where’s good for lunch near your studio?

Get out early and go to The Fields Beneath next to Kentish Town West station. It’s a really small space with incredible vegan food and great coffee. Everything goes so quick though, so you’ve got to be on it.

What do you like about working and living in the same place/ area?

You can only really get to know a place by living there. It doesn’t matter if you work somewhere during the day, places change at night.

Where is the majority of your team based?

We have a few people who commute in from Essex and even further afield, but most of my creative team live in East London.

Some great local cafés to try out…

The best café is Mario’s Café on Kelly Street or there is Map Studio Café on Grafton Road – we’re spoiled for choice in Kentish Town and Camden, really. Just avoid the chains.

Neighbourhoods worth exploring…

Go to Kings Cross; it’s really cool right now. You can see what students are doing in art and fashion at Central Saint Martins and get some great food and shopping at Coal Drops Yard, which is really well curated.

Independent book and magazine stores to check out…

If you’re in Camden go to Walden Books. It’s tucked away on a quieter street but is full of second-hand and antique books; there’s always something strange to find there. There’s also this really interesting concept store near me too called Insidestore, it sells international magazines along with well-chosen books on art and interior design.

The best place to stay in north London is…

The Standard, which has just opened. You also get amazing views from the upper floors – especially of St Pancras.

What is your favourite museum/gallery?

Not enough people head to the Zabludowicz Collection. It shows groundbreaking work and isn’t afraid to show marmite exhibitions – things that split audiences, you either love it or hate it.

Best spot for Sunday lunch?

Since I don’t eat meat anymore, I’m not going to be able to send you for a roast. There are some great pubs with nice food though around north London if that’s your thing. The Lion and Unicorn should be up there on your list.

Where do you head when you want to get out of the city?

I have a house out in the countryside which I head to on the weekends with my wife and our dogs. It’s a place to get away from the noise of the city and just be on our own.

What’s your London secret?

Look up. There are so many interesting buildings around London which you don’t really appreciate unless you look up and away from your phone.

What are you working on at the moment, and what’s next?

I have just opened an exhibition in Milan which runs until February. I’m doing some really exciting events in the city too, including a live photoshoot with the only Polaroid 20×24 camera that’s operational outside of the US. I’ve got a book coming out at the end of October of my work with the make-up artist Marco Antonio. The next issue of my magazine, Hunger, has just gone to press so that will be out soon too. There’s a lot of momentum right now so I’m just keeping that going.

Rankin’s first major show in Italy – “Rankin – from the Portraiture to Fashion” – will be exhibited at the 29 Arts In Progress gallery in Milan, with the support of Piaget. 

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