London West End theatre stars pose for Rankin in post-lockdown photo fundraiser

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David Harewood, currently playing the lead role in ‘Best of Enemies’ at the Old Vic theatre, was one of the 150 people photographed for ‘Performance by Rankin’ (Image credit: © Rankin)

It’s two new exhibitions in as many days for Rankin, as a new show by the celebrated photographer and film-maker opened on Thursday in Fujifilm’s The House of Photography.

‘Performance by Rankin’ is a free exhibition that celebrates the return of live theatre and musicals to London’s West End after the industry was laid low by Covid-19 lockdowns for well over one year. 

Rankin joined forces with the Mayor of London’s #LetsDoLondon campaign and the Society of London Theatre (SoLT) as part of its #BackOnStage campaign. 

The aim of the project was to celebrate the talent and resilience of the front and back stage crew of London’s theatres – “the cultural heart of the city.”

Over five full days of shooting, the photographer invited 150 individuals from almost 60 of London’s top shows and venues to sit for him in a pop-up studio at the House of Photography. 

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A small selection of ‘Performance by Rankin’ portraits to adorn the walls of Fujifilm‘s House of Photography (Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Shooting up to 30 portraits in one day is a challenge to say the least, and Rankin and his creative team were hard at the task all day. 

The resulting pictures were printed on Fujifilm paper and mounted on the walls of the first-floor gallery, gradually filling up the available space. 

On the day of our visit, Rankin said that a blank wall that covered with printed quotes from participating shows would be replaced by new photos by the end of the following day. 

And for anyone not used to having their picture taken by a top professional, it would have been reassuring when they were invited to choose their ’keeper’ image from the two or three variations that Rankin shot of each sitter; as his camera was tethered to a computer, his models were able to get instant sight of the captures.

Jarnéia Richard-Noel (Aragon), Alexia McIntosh (Cleves) and Natalie Paris (Seymour) from ‘Six‘ at the Vaudeville Theatre (Image credit: © Rankin)

Rankin said he wasn’t aiming to capture the actors and performers as they would appear in their shows, but instead wanted them to project the joy of being able to tread the boards once again to live audiences in London’s Theatreland. 

“I felt the loss of theatre because it was emblematic of the wider creative world shutting down and the isolation we all felt," said Rankin. “It was the loss of the performance we all collaborate in every day.

“Taking pictures for this new project, the joy that every single subject brought to the sessions was like breath of fresh air – rejuvenating my energy for what I do, as well as giving everyone a chance to perform again, albeit just for my camera.”

Tom Bennett as Del Boy and Paul Whitehouse as Grandad in ‘Only Fools And Horses The Musical’ at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket (Image credit: © Rankin)

David Harewood was the most recognisable face during Digital Camera World’s visit, but other well-known sitters beaming down from the gallery walls included Rory Kinnear and Paul Whitehouse, impresarios Cameron Mackintosh, Sonia Friedman and Andrew Lloyd Webber – and many more. 

‘Performance by Rankin‘ is open now until 31 January 2022, at the Fujifilm House of Photography, 8-9 Long Acre, London WC2E 9LH. 

Entry is free, but visitors are encouraged to donate on site to the Theatre Artists Fund, which provides emergency aid to struggling theatre freelancers, as well as to four London youth homelessness charities selected by the Mayor of London: Depaul , akt , Centrepoint and New Horizons Youth Centre

The ‘Performance by Rankin’ book cover features his shot of Charlie Stemp as Bert and Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins, in Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre (Image credit: © Rankin)

A limited edition 120-page ‘Performance by Rankin’ hardback book of the portraits will be launched on 25 November to accompany the exhibition, and all proceeds will go to the project’s chosen charities.

The portraits will then be exhibited across multiple venues across central London and on train platforms across the south-east of England. More details will be announced soon. 

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Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for over 20 years, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 

Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens. These days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, and he also enjoys dabbling with studio still life. 

On the site you will see him writing photographer profiles, asking questions for Q&As and interviews, reporting on the latest and most noteworthy photography competitions, and sharing his knowledge on website building.