First off, any photographer, writer, musician, artist, or pizza delivery guy that goes by one name like Rankin does, is bound to be an ass and a bit out of touch with the “real” world. By “real” world, I mean the one in which people like you and I watch things called, “Real World” because our lives are so inordinately mundane. Now, these one named people love to do things to show that they do in fact “get it” and obviously Rankin has done such an event or I wouldn’t be bothering to write about him.
Twiddling his thumbs in what I’m sure is a sunny, West End breakfast nook one day, Rankin apparently got the idea to go to DR Congo and photograph people living in Mugunga refugee camp. You can take a look at the photos. They’re good photos as would be expected from a high end fashion photographer. The thought behind them was to shoot the subjects in a high fashion manner so that people could better relate to them. This is of course where the controversy started because this is asinine. They’re human beings. We can relate to them no matter what. But such is the generally inept approach toward Africa. If you feel like reading more commentary, then take a look at: Uganda Scarlett Lion, Wronging Rights, and to a lesser extent Chis Blattman. These are all excellent blogs by the way, which are worth reading on a regular basis unless of course you don’t like sarcasm, in which case, what the hell are you doing reading my blog?
In my mind, a better approach would have been for Rankin to “arm” locals in the area with cameras and help them to shoot what they see from their vantage. While the photos wouldn’t be artistic at first, they would be honest. Rankin’s work is not honest. It’s a fabrication and when something is fabricated through a camera, I can’t stand it. It’s one of the few mediums we have that allows us a window on to another time or place that we don’t immediately have access to. This is the point of it; all else is secondary. If we’re to “understand the plight” of the people living in the Kivus, then we really need to actually see people living in region and know who they are. As it is, this seems like an anthropological documentation of a foreign species. It fails on all levels except getting Rankin press and making him feel like he did some good by being there for two weeks.