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A Rankin photoshoot? Yours for £20

Renowned photographer Rankin, who has taken the portraits of celebrities from Kylie Minogue to the Queen, today offered his photographic skills to the public – for just £20 a time.

Isobel Smith gets the Rankin treatment

Rankin fans queued outside the National Theatre on London’s South Bank to have their portrait taken against his trademark white background.

Isobel Smith, 26, from London was one of those to get the photoshoot experience.

She said:

“It was pretty amazing. I was a bit nervous but excited at the same time”

Another person waiting her turn was Jessica from Canada. She told Don’t Know? that she was excited about getting her picture taken by the celebrated photographer.

“I mean, how often do you get that chance?” she added.

Congo Crisis

The event is being held on behalf of Oxfam, with all proceeds going to the charity.

Rankin explained:

“I’m down on the South Bank today because we’re seeing a catastrophe unfolding in Congo. I visited before the current crisis and even then the level of suffering there was horrendous. I hate to think what it’s like now”

Earlier this year, Rankin travelled to the Democratic Republic of Congo to photograph refugees in the country’s Mugunga camp.

'Jasmine, Photographer' by Rankin (courtesy of Oxfam)The resulting photographs are currently being shown in an exhibition called “Cheka kidogo” outside the National Theatre.

Cheka kidogo means ‘laugh a little’ in Swahili.

Rankin shot his subjects in his traditional celebrity style. He says:

“I think we have become anaesthetised to traditional photographs of conflict victims. By taking my celebrity portraiture style of photography and applying it to the survivors in the camps in Congo I have tried to get beyond the statistics and show the human side of the conflict”

Celebrity Conflict?

But is there a risk that the involvement of a fashion photographer could trivialise the conflict?

Sean Kenny, a Press Officer for the charity, doesn’t think so. He defended the partnership with Rankin:

“He can talk to people who we wouldn’t usually hear from”

This could prove crucial as Oxfam plans to expand its presence in Congo from helping 85,000 people to 200,000. Kenny says that this will cost an extra £1 million.

The Rankin event won’t have raised quite that much this time around; only about 35 people had signed up to have their photos taken by 12.30.

The principle behind it is sound though, thought one woman waiting to have her picture taken:

“If you appeal to people’s vanity,you’ll do well” she said.

For background information on Rankin, click here.

By Helen Catt


November 7, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , | 2 Comments

Background: Rankin, fashion and portrait photographer

Rankin photographs Jasmine in Mugungu refugee camp

Rankin photographs Jasmine in Mugungu refugee camp

Rankin, the photographer best-known for his portraits of stars such as Kate Moss, has been taking photographs of the general public today.

He is donating the proceeds to Oxfam as part of his recent work in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the charity.

Earlier this year, he travelled to the Mugungu Refugee Camp and photographed its inhabitants in his trademark celebrity style.

Who is Rankin?

Rankin was born John Rankin Waddell in Paisley, Glasgow in 1966.

He is a leading fashion and portrait photographer and has taken pictures of people from the Gallagher brothers to Tony Blair.

His most famous portraits include a naked, prostrate Kylie Minogue and a shot of the Queen in front of an upturned Union Jack.

Dazed and Confused

In 1991, Rankin founded youth culture magazine Dazed and Confused with fellow London College of Printing student, Jefferson Hack.

The magazine swiftly became an established part of the nineties’ British culture explosion, along with Britpop and Britart.

Since then, Rankin has founded his own quarterly fashion magazine RANK as well as Another Man and Another Magazine.


This year Rankin has also published a book featuring his favourite model and Muse, Tuuli.

The book was accompanied by an exhibition entitled ‘Tuulitastic’.

The phrase was coined following a 40 page spread featuring the model in a German magazine.

Tuuli is the model featured on the cover of Sebastian Faulks’s James Bond novel, Devil May Care.

Britain’s Missing Top Model

Rankin was also involved with controversial reality show ‘Britain’s Missing Top Model’.

The show featured aspiring models with a physical disability competing for a shoot with Rankin to feature in Marie Claire.

Despite being impressed with the winner, Kelly Knox, he was concerned that she would find it difficult to progress in the modelling industry with a disability.

He told the show’s website:

“If I’m honest with you, I don’t think the fashion industry will accept her disability. I think she’ll find it really hard, and an uphill struggle. However, what she should do is use everything she’s got going for her – including her disability – to make it work for her.”


Rankin has also tried his hand at film-making.

He directed the short film “Perfect” for FilmFour, which was shown at the Edinburgh, Raindance and Los Angeles film festivals.

He also co-produced the 2006  film “The Lives of the Saints”, a modern-day fable set in North London.

Related links on this blog: A Rankin photoshoot? Yours for £20

By Helen Catt

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Helen-Culture | , , , | 2 Comments

Banksy: A Background

Street artist Banksy is known for being unknown, and is often called ‘the most wanted artist in the world’.

Although he has exhibited paintings and displayed drawings, he is infamous for his graffiti art around the streets of Britain and the world.

Journalists have often sought to uncover his identity, and some have claimed to have caught him in the act. However, as of yet none of the rumours have been either confirmed or denied.

The general consenus says that Banksy is from Bristol and he is a 30-something male. It was claimed by The Mail on Sunday that his name is Robert Gunningham, he went to a private school and that his parents think he is a painter and decorator.

However, Banksy said on his website that he is “unable to comment on who may or may not be Banksy, but anyone described as being ‘good at drawing’ doesn’t sound like Banksy to me”.

Subversive Work

He is known for his anti establishment, anti capitalism and anti war messages, such as his portrayal of a man about to throw a grenade, holding a bunch of flowers instead; and the image of a cash machine reaching out and capturing a young girl.



Images of rats also play an important role in his work. In an interview with The Culture Show he is thought to have said it’s because “the idea that everything you paint on the street, it should be something that could actually be on the street”

Previous Art

One of the artist’s most prominent pieces can be seen on the cover for Blur’s 2003 album, Think Tank. It pictures a man and a woman  holding each other, while wearing diving helmets.

In 2006, he copied the works of famous paintings and added his own twist to them. Monet’s ‘Garden’, for example, was shown with shopping trollies and a cone floating in the water, while Andy Warhol’s painting of Marylin Munroe become a picture of Kate Moss.

One of his stunts in 2006 included replacing copies of Paris Hilton’s album across nearly 50 different music stores with ones showing his own cover art. The song title’s were changed to things such as ‘What Am I For?’ and ‘Why Am I Famous?’

Currently, Banksy has opened an exhibition in New York showing animals pursuing haman pasttimes, and food animated to look like animals. It ‘aims to question the relationship between human beings and animals’.

For an article on the street artist, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , | 1 Comment

Will the issue of race change with an Obama presidency?

According to USA Today, Barack Obama always made it clear throughout his campaign that although he “will send a wonderful message to young people of color and to immigrants around the country”, he does not want race to be an issue in his bid to Presidency.

55 million people voted for Obama to become the first African American president of the United States.  This has revealed the way in which America is continuously renewing itself.  Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General said:-

“His (Obama’s) election demonstrates America’s extraordinary capacity to renew itself and adapt to a changing world.”

Attitudes and stereotypes

Even so has this changed the stereotypes that exist in American society or are they as strife as ever?  Rapper Chuck D has publicly spoken of this situation saying “You guys have got a black president so it’s cool.  It’s straight.”

The fact that Obama has been elected President could in fact hide the issues that so many African Americans face each day.

During this time of economic uncertainty, everyone is suffering.  Unfortunately for African Americans and Hispanics, they have been hit worst.

Similarly to the Great Depression of 1929, when African Americans were the first to suffer, a repeat is currently taking place. 


Their median income has declined by an average of 1.2 percent per year from 2000 to 2006, after rising an average of 1.5 percent per year in the 1900’s.  Although in the 1990’s, the number of African Americans covered by health insurance increased, it has since 2000 decreased by 0.3 percent. 


While the weekly earnings of whites have increased over the last eight years, the usual median weekly earnings for African Americans has stagnated.  The gap of earnings between whites and African Americans is gradually widening each year.

Obama has clearly got his work cut out in attempting to improve the social and economic state of the poor.

Success state by state

Interestingly, the press has not concentrated much on the states that did not vote for Obama this week.  Some in fact had a substantial difference in the vote for McCain and for Obama.

In Texas, 56percent voted McCain with 44percent for Obama and in Arkansas 59percent McCain and 39percent.  Although Obama was successful overall, some of the southern states are currently feeling rather hostile towards him.

Other states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania who were expected to vote Republican, in fact voted for Obama which reveals this thirst for changethat the people feel.  Many progressive states put their trust in Obama and are looking forward to the day he will be sworn into presidency.

Yes, the United States have voted in an African American and this will be remembered as a historic day in American history.  It will be interesting to see whether this will do much to change attitudes and stereotypes that they have had to deal with for the last century in the United States.

By Ffion Rees

For more information see

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Ffion-Politics | , , , | Leave a comment

Is Banksy’s Work Art or Vandalism?

The graffiti artist known only as Banksy has recently painted a new mural on the side of a pub in Liverpool.

According to BBC News, the pub that was on sale for around £495,000 could now double in cost to around £1 million.

Liverpool Pub

Courtesy of BBC -

The new painting depicts a rat toting a gun, and has appeared on the side of the derelict Whitehouse pub in Liverpool.

However, while the painter is heralded as an artistic mastermind by some, others see him as no more than an anarchic vandal.

Works Of Art

Banksy is most famous for his satirical graffiti murals that cover topics such as ethics, politics and culture.

His paintings have sold for thousands of pounds, with the piece ‘Space Girl and Bird’ reaching 20 times its estimated value at £288,000 in 2007.

His admirers are strong in their praise, with BT’s press office describing his work on one of their phoneboxes as “a stunning visual comment on BT’s transformation from an old fashioned telecommunications company into a modern communications services provider”.

Celebrities such as Jude Law, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are admirers of his work, and artist Damien Hirst owns several of his paintings. Speaking to The Guardian he said “I’ve always thought he was great. The streets are boring. So I think anyone like Banksy who makes it entertaining and treats people like people instead of consumers is brilliant”.

In May 2007 he won the award for ‘Art’s Greatest Living Briton’ in celebration of his work: although he did not attend in order to keep his anonimity intact.

Crime and Vandalism

There are many that see Banksy as no more than a vandal, defacing buildings and causing controversy wherever he goes.

Throughout the years, councils around the country have been faced with the debate over whether to keep or cover his work.

Westminster City Council has become the latest to make the decision to remove one of his artworks, ‘One Nation Under CCTV’.

Deputy leader Robert Davis has said “I take the view that this is graffiti and if you condone this then what is the difference between this and all the other graffiti you see sprawled across the city”.


He is echoing the view of many of the artists critics, who see his work as audacious stunts. The Times Visual Arts reporter, Mathew Collings has said that Banksy’s work is “a status symbol – the work has no value as art”.

The works themselves have always sparked controversy, with one of his more famous works in Soho depicting two Policemen kissing, and many of his works using rats as the focal point.

The artist himself is elusive, with many theories surrounding his identity but nothing confirmed for certain. Any interviews that have been given cannot be verified, however he is quoted as saying “people say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish…but that’s only if it’s done properly”.

For a background on Banksy, Click Here

Kirstie Nicols

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Kirstie - Lifestyle | , , , | 1 Comment

Did race play a part in the Presidential Election?

A historic victory was seen this week, when Barack Obama was elected to be the first African-American president of the United States.

“Change, Yes We Can”

Defeating Republican candidate John McCain, he promised from his first speech as Democratic candidate that he could bring ‘Change’ to America.

With voters turning out in huge numbers, this was an election compared to the other greats such as Kennedy’s in the 1960’s and Clinton’s in 1992.  It seems that race might not have played such a part in the electoral process as previously believed.

Obama was successful in winning in the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.  These were in fact the two that the Democrats feared would overturn the election altogether, with it usually always voting Republican.

Although the majority voted for Obama, some states certainly varied in their choice of candidate.  Pennsylvania saw a large gap between those voting for Obama and those voting for McCain as did South Carolina, but the latter favouring the Republican.

Segregation and Presidency

The announcment that Obama would become the 44th President of the United States was an emotional one for millions worldwide.  Martin Luther King Jr’s sister watched the victory at Ebenzer Baptist Church as did a tearful Jesse Jackson in Grant Park, Illinois.

These are just some of the people who were witness to segregation and the civil rights movement, who would never have believed that they would live to see a black president in their country.

One voter spoke of the emotion she felt when voting for Obama”I could barely see through my tears as we walked out to the room crowded with differrently shaped faces and bodies…I feel like we live in a democracy again, breathless with hope.” 

This weeks outcome is evidence that race did not play a major part in the process of voting.  It may have for a small minority of people but these have been outshone by those who wanted change and were willing to put their trust in Obama.

For many it has been an emotional week not only for the African-American’s but for millions of people worldwide.  The time has come when they can leave the past behind them and move on to a new era in American history.

By Ffion Rees

For more information

November 7, 2008 Posted by | Ffion-Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bradley effect background

With only days to go until the U.S. Presidential Election, many have been asking the question as to whether the Bradley effect will play a part in who will eventually become president.

Obama has insisted that it does not cause concern for him and that the American people want nothing more than hope that someone will change the policies that the current administration under George Bush has introduced.

This issue of social desirability bias is one that many scholars are adamant could actually cause for McCain to win the election, with many voters unwilling to admit that they will not vote for an African-American president.

History of the Bradley effect

There is no doubt that many have been affected by this including Tom Bradley, in which the theory is named after.  Others include Harold Washington and Jesse Jackson, a man who has backed Obama and also been very critical of throughout the campaign.

Tom Bradley

According to the Washington Post,The man who owes his name to the theory was once mayor of Los Angeles, California and in 1982 had decided to run for the position as democratic candidate to become governor against Republican George Deukmejian, who was white.

Days prior to the election, polls revealed that Bradley was in the lead and would most likely win the campaign.  Some even announced that he had won prior to the election as he was in such a lead. This was not the case.

When election day came, he lost.  Charles Henry, an African American studies professor proposed that race would have been the main factor in this election and the reason for Bradley losing.

Since then, many have argued that this idea that some are afraid of admitting that they are voting for a white person in fear of being accused of racism, could in fact be very true.

Jesse Jackson

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is very familiar with the effect that this theory can have upon an African American hoping to be in power.

When he ran for Democratic presidential primary in 1988, the polls, similar to this year’s with Obama, suggested that he had a fair chance of winning.  In the end, he did not recieve near enough votes and many were quick to question whether the theory could have contributed to the voting.

Obama and the Bradley effect

It will be interesting to see whether in 2008, the Bradley effect is still existent.  The polls are in favour of Obama and with the popularity that he has very quickly gained, he has a very fair chance of winning. 

A gallup poll in 1958 revealed that 58 percent of Americans would not vote for an African-American. By 2007, only 5percent felt this way. 

Many are hoping that history will not repeat itself with the polls wrongly suggesting who is lined up for winning the 2008 U.S. Election.

By Ffion Rees

For more information see

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Ffion-Politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s family celebrate in Kenya

The Evening Standard reported that Obama‘s family in Kenya have said that his historic electoral victory is a “victory for the world”.

Obama’s relatives partied through the night. Kiran Randhawa from The Evening Standard has reported that Obama’s half-brother Abongo, 51, “wept tears of joy and relief as the win was was announced and heard Barack thank his family for their help.”

Abongo viewed the live election coverage on a portable television with his relatives in their native village.

The Evening Standard reports Abongo’s brotherly pride: “I never had any doubt my brother would do this. This is a historic moment…for the entire world.”

Please see the video below for coverage of Obama’s family celebrating in Africa:


Sarah Obama is thrilled for her grandson

Barack Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, is a woman of simple means, and has always maintained that the fame and glory of her grandson would not affect her lifestyle.

The Guardian report on her uncomplicated way of living. Sarah wakes at dawn, tends her vegetables, goes to the market and then to bed.

Even on Wednesday night – election night – Sarah continued as normal with her daily routine, turning in for bed early. Other members of the family camped at her house but could not sleep for excitement.

CNN announced Obama’s victory over John McCain at 7am the following morning. This time, Sarah Obama joined in all the commotion and allowed herself to be caught in the emotion of her surrounding family.

A few hours later, she expressed her emotional sentiments to The Guardian, “I don’t know if I will die of happiness.”

When asked if she had any advice for the new president, she said: “He should work very well globally, especially for world peace.”

Joy in Kenya

Elsewhere in Kenya where people think of Obama as one of their own, The Guardian report the euphoria to have spread.

Spontaneous parties were thrown in the eastern port city of Mombasa. In Nairobi young men were marching through a slum singing: “Obama don’t sleep. The struggle is still on.”

President Mwai Kibaki declared today as a bank holiday in celebration of Obama’s victory much to the delight of the people of Kenya.

In the village near Sarah Obama’s house in Kogelo, hundreds of locals had stayed up throug the night and were danicing whilst watching the election procedures on screen. Barak Obama’s father had been raised in this village.

 Kenya is not expecting to receive help from Obama. The Guardian reported Auma Obama, the half-sister who Obama thanked in his speech, as saying: “As a family we support Barack, but have not got expectations [of him helping us in Africa].”

He is an American … if there any changes to they will be in America and the world.”

For more information on Obama’s family, you can see my background article.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Background: The Obama family

John McCain used Obama‘s background as a negative arguement towards his opponent during the campaigns, and the question ‘who is Obama?’ became topical.

In response, Obama sportingly joked that he comes from Krypton, the planet where Superman was born.

But where is Obama from? Who are his family? Obama seems to have a new step-grandmother or unknown uncle popping up all over Kenya and America.

Family is incredibly important to Obama and it is a known fact that whilst he was senate, he tried to be back at home with his wife and children from Thursday to Sunday every week.

Obama referred to his family in his election victory speech, and said that he loved his children ‘more than they could ever know’. He also made a loving dedication to his wife during the same speech:

 “And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years … the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady … Michelle Obama.”

The family behind Barack Obama

Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961. Obama and his wife have two children between them, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7. You can see a video of the Obamas below:

The President was born in Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama from Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white American from Kansas. His parents met while studying together at the University of Hawaii, and married in 1961 and divorced in 1964, when Obama was two years old.

Obama’s father only saw his son once more on a return to Kenya before dying in a motorbike accident in 1982.

Obama was mostly brought up by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died on the eve of the Presidential election.

Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, died of ovarian cancer in 1995.

The extended family

In an interview in 2006, Obama talked about his numerous relatives, “Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s like a little mini-United Nations… I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.”

In Obama’s outer-immediate family, he has seven half-siblings from Kenya, all from his father’s side. Six of them are living. He also has a half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. Maya is his mother’s daughter.

Obama’s paternal step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, lives in a Kenyan Nyang’oma Kogelo village near his other relatives. The village is 30 miles away from Kenya’s main town, Kisumu, which is next to Lake Victoria.

Sarah Obama is a member of the Luo, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya. Many of Obama’s other paternal relations are also members of this group.

Obama’s grandmother Sarah was the third wife of Obama’s grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama (1895-1979). Barack Obama has been known to call his grandmother ‘Granny Sarah’, although she is not a blood relation.

Sarah Obama speaks mostly Luo and communicates with her step-grandson with the help of an interpreter.

After Obama’s electoral victory over John McCain, Sarah Obama finally let go of her strict but simple routines and celebrated her step-grandson’s Presidency. To see my article on Sarah Obama and her relations celebrating, please see here.

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Charlotte Hanger - Quirky News | , , , | Leave a comment

Will the Bradley effect lose it for Obama?

Some analysts have warned that the ‘Bradley effect’ could possibly take place in this years U.S. Presidential Election.

Bradley effect in this day and age

What triggered this suggestion was the results of New Hampshirewhere, according to the polls, Obama was meant to win.  When the results came in, he lost by three points to his democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Some right-wing Republicans have been clear in their opinion of Obama and that his policies in no way coincide with their beliefs. 

The Internet has been a successful source for uploading videos showing peoples’ opinions on the two candidates and there have been plenty of them interviewing ‘rednecks’ who are afraid of Obama and his policies.

Others have been less vocal and has sparked the question as to whether the Bradley effect has been playing it’s part.

The Bradley effect is a theory that suggests that some voters tell pollsters that they have not decided who they will vote for or that they will be voting for the black candidate but on election day, they vote for the white person.

Evidence from the past

This name derives from Tom Bradley who was a black man running for governor in California in 1982.  He lost even though the polls suggested that he was ahead.

There has been a fear that Obama might suffer the same fate as many believe that some people will not be ready for such a change.  Even though his slogans have been ‘Change’ and ‘Yes We Can’, he is certainly aware that there is a huge challenge ahead of him.

There has been over the last decades what is known as a social desirability bias in which white voters are afraid of admitting who they are voting for in case they are accused of being racist.

Some have criticized the Bradley effect, agreeing that this might have been true immediately after integration of blacks and whites but not so in the last two decades.

Charles Henry, an African American studies professor at the University of California has spoken publicly that he believes Obama will need “a double-digit lead in polls to feel confident about victory on election day.”

Not a believer

Obama himself has spoken in interviews about the Bradley effect and whether he believes that it is a matter for him to be prepared for.  He strongly argues that this will not be an issue for him in winning the election when interviewed by Katie Couric.

“The reason I’m sitting here two days before election as the democratic candidate is because the American people ultimately care about whether or not you can do the job.”

Obama’s view on this matter is refreshing as his views are on any other topic.  Unfortunately with history as evidence that the Bradley effect can play a part in an electoral process, let’s hope that things really have changed.

By Ffion Rees

For more information see

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Ffion-Politics | , , , , | 3 Comments