Pleasure pursuits: Rankin on dogs

Words by
Sphere Life
Photography by

23rd March 2017

The renowned photographer and Dazed & Confused co-founder reveals his passion for dogs; his pet pooches have even had their own star turn in front of the camera


Born in 1966 in Paisley, Scotland, pioneering fashion and portrait photographer Rankin (full name John Rankin Waddell) studied photography at the London College of Printing before co-founding cult style title Dazed and Confused in 1992 with publisher Jefferson Hack. Other seminal cultural platforms followed, including AnOther Magazine, Another Man and Hunger, and he has also turned his lens to music videos, advertising campaigns and short films, alongside fashion editorials. Having exhibited his work all over the world, career highlights include portraits of David Bowie and Queen Elizabeth II.


What was the first dog you had?

My first dog was called Nina. She was a Sheltie; my mum used to breed them. She was a nasty little thing who loved to nip me whenever she could. It wasn’t a great first experience… I’ve never really liked Shelties since.


What dogs do you own now?

We have four: two whippets, a lurcher and a Jack Russell. Their names are Squidge, Beans, Pickle and Tombi. Tombi was my wife Tuuli’s dog before we met. The other three are from rescue centres.


What is it that you love about dogs?

Everything really — they just make you feel good, they give you a tremendous sense of wellbeing. It’s also the loyalty and the unwavering love. I would never trust people who don’t like dogs (or The Beatles)!


What are your favourite — and least favourite — breeds?

I love whippets, especially now I’ve had them. They’re just the most beautiful and gentle creatures, both incredibly loving and a little bit needy. My least favourite, if pushed, would be a Shih Tzu… and of course, Shelties called Nina!


What is the most elegant dog in history?

Whippets have to be the most elegant. They are so incredibly beautiful to photograph — if you can get them to sit still! I also have a dog crush on Italian greyhounds, but Tuuli says we’ve got too many dogs already, so we’re not allowed to have one.


Which artists have portrayed dogs the best? 

All the great artists work with dogs, though I do love William Wegman’s Weimaraners, and Elliot Erwitt has taken some great pictures of dogs. I also like a guy called Dougie Wallace. 


What are the best canine accoutrements? 

Little Squidge loves a ball and I have to say, that has to be the most fun. We don’t really dress our dogs up, apart from our yearly calendar, which is just for family consumption, but the best outfit is an Equafleece when it gets cold in the winter.


Any humorous canine-related stories to recount? 

My dogs are funny all the time, but probably only to Tuuli and I. Weirdly, I think you learn a lot about people from dogs; the way they interact, the dominance, how they get what they want... I wish I’d realised this earlier in my life, as I’ve missed a lot of time with dogs.