Photographer Rankin joins The Body Shop/UNAIDS HIV solidarity campaign

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Photographer Rankin joins The Body Shop/UNAIDS HIV solidarity campaign

29 November 2010

Posters developed for the UNAIDS and The Body Shop Be an Activist campaign. Photos by Rankin.

Posters developed for the UNAIDS and The Body Shop Be an Activist campaign. Photos by Rankin.

UNAIDS has teamed up with The Body Shop and world-renowned photographer Rankin to launch an international HIV solidarity campaign, which invites you to be ‘an activist’ and join the fight against HIV.

To highlight that HIV knows no boundaries, the poster campaign features a range of everyday ‘activists’ who come from all walks of life, captured by British portrait and fashion photographer Rankin. The campaign is a reminder that being an activist can mean many different things—from taking to a podium and speaking out, to wearing the red ribbon on World AIDS Day and supporting the fight against HIV.

Activists featured in the poster campaign include among others Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director and singer and activist Annie Lennox
This campaign calls on everyone everywhere to show their support and solidarity with those affected by HIV. The visuals for this campaign developed in partnership with UNAIDS, herald a new take on the iconic red ribbon design, with a stencil logo designed by the in-house The Body Shop creative team.

“As we near 30 years of a world with AIDS, the fresh, new look of the red ribbon will help inspire the public and re-energize the movement to stand in solidarity with the more than 30 million people living with HIV worldwide,” said Mr Sidibé. 

As we near 30 years of a world with AIDS, the fresh, new look of the red ribbon will help inspire the public and re-energize the movement to stand in solidarity with the more than 30 million people living with HIV worldwide

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

The Body Shop stores across the world will support the campaign by selling red ribbons on World AIDS Day. All proceeds will go to local HIV partners and charities. The Body Shop Foundation charity, has long supported HIV activists and supporters, and raised over £1 million for the Staying Alive Foundation, a HIV youth-awareness organization.

Rankin is best-known for his portraits of people in the public eye including Madonna, Kate Moss, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He creates images that draw out different aspects of each subject’s character, their personal nuances and with a range of people involved in this campaign, he was the perfect choice for this campaign.

We asked Rankin to share his thoughts on the images he shot to support the campaign, as well as asking him about the professional achievements that make him feel the most proud:

How do you feel about photographing “real” people for this campaign, as you work so often with models and celebrities?
I always enjoy meeting new people. This project was really inspiring, as everyone had their own story to tell, but we all had a common agenda. It felt great to see so many people with so many different experiences getting involved in promoting the same message.

I love shooting models and celebrities, and they are often amazing and surprising people. But working with this group really was special, simply because they were all passionate, and all wanted to stand clearly for their cause.

You are known for so many different projects, but which piece of work are you most proud of – and what inspired you?
That’s a really tough question. I am a perfectionist and am generally very proud of the work I do. Being a photographer affords me amazing opportunities and is very rewarding.

I try to give something back, and the only way I know how to do this is through photographs. This HIV campaign is very important to me, and I hope that the images will help influence attitudes.

I also work on an on-going basis with Oxfam, trying to support their aid effort in Africa. I have visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo twice in the last 3 years to photograph people displaced by the conflict there. We held a couple of exhibitions and published a book, which helped raise over a million pounds. I know that the money raised will make a huge difference to the lives of the people I met, and I am very proud to have been part of that effort.

Which image from the shoot is your favourite?
I love my image of Phoebe and Sadie. They are gorgeous girls who suffered through the loss of their dad. He was an aid worker in Africa, and stood on a contaminated needle.

They lost so much to HIV/AIDS, and I think their viewpoint is important to the campaign.

What did you wish to convey through the image of Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS?
Michel Sidibé is a quietly passionate man. He is one of the most open and approachable people I have ever met. His sincerity, stature and kindness shine through in the image, so I feel like it is a success.

What did you wish to convey through the image of Annie Lennox?
Annie Lennox is an incredibly strong person and vocal about her viewpoint. There is nothing I could portray onto Annie. It all comes from her.

She is beautiful and passionate, and I love my image of her as she has projected all this in one simple shot.

How do you get your subjects to relax, to best convey their personality in your images?
I talk to people. It’s hard to get me to shut up actually, and I think just chatting really relaxes people. Simply asking someone to pose will make them instantly close down – it’s just a reflex reaction. I suppose if you feel like you are being examined, it feels safer to put up a wall. When that happens, it makes it difficult to see beyond the subject’s projected self to the real person beneath.

I try to look at a person beyond the image, chatting as I photograph them, and telling the occasional joke to keep it all light. It is the best way to bring personality to a portrait.

And finally, how do you think people could “be an activist – join the fight against HIV”?
I will wear a red ribbon on 1 December. HIV/AIDS must be acknowledged and we be brave enough to face it with an open mind. The more people that make a stand, the better.

They say knowledge is power, but empathy and compassion are the basis of humanity. If we can promote both by being an activist, there is hope.