Ben Rayner Goes Behind the Scenes at the Westminster Dog Show
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is the most recognized dog show in the world, broadcast to all corners and attracting millions of viewers every year. One of those viewers is photographer Ben Rayner who decided it wasn’t enough to watch at home. A few years ago he grabbed his camera and his wife and went to the show to see it in person. “It actually started off as just something fun me and my wife did together and I took a camera and we went back again and it was hilarious,” says Ben. “It really is like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
This year Ben brought back with him a collection of photographs that reveal what it’s really like to be there at the show and experience the insanity of it all. On screen it looks like relatively tame experience with a wide playing field and a ton of spectators, but behind the scenes it’s a very carefully controlled version of quiet chaos. “There’s obviously no getting anyone to pose, there’s none of that, it’s purely fly on the wall,” Ben explains. “A lot of times there’s a lot of people crowding around so that’s quite an interesting shot sometimes when there’s lots of people huddled in one shot. There was loads of stuff. There’s definitely a lot of energy in there, a lot of dogs in one place. It could be a disaster but it’s pretty chill there.”
Ben brought his unique aesthetic to this shoot, employing a camera mounted flash to make the project almost feel like a club scene, bringing a sense of humor to the presence of the dogs. When watching a dog show it’s easy to forget that even though it’s ostensibly a dog show, it’s a show for humans to show off the effort and will of other humans. “It’s breeders, it’s people who breed the dogs, it’s the dedication that people have to their breed it’s almost like their life’s work,” Ben explains. “They know everything about them. It’s bordering on obsession.”
Alexa Chung and Ben Rayner Disturb the Peace for Refinery29
Libraries are traditionally filled with stressed out grad students, curious kids, and newspaper flipping retirees. But just recently the Brooklyn Historical Society Library also welcomed British actress, host, author, model, and general wunderkind Alexa Chung. She was there with Ben Rayner shooting a feature to go along her Refinery29 interview with Chelsea Handler. The result is an all-star affair. Alexa is known for her grace and propensity for fashion, but that’s something that she doesn’t treat too preciously as she reveals in the interview. Ben wanted to plumb that for the shoot. “It was centered around the theme of behaving badly in the library,” says Ben. “It was a little bit cheeky, a little bit fun. And because she’s such a great personality she lent well to this and I think that really helped a lot. It just made everything easy.”
Disruption is impossible to plan for, and a wild day doesn’t follow a schedule. So when Ben met Chung at the library, instead of following a rigid program of events, they kept it loose and allowed it to develop as the day went on. “We started with a theme that was a good starting point and then it was built upon a little bit more on the day,” explains Ben. “The location definitely shifts the mood, makes it feel sort of vintagey which I think fits with her.” Ben didn’t just shoot still images, but also created a short video called “Quiet, Please” that follows Chung’s loud and brash exploits in the library from carving portraits on the desk, to experimenting with a practical orchestra of instruments, to partaking in a Happy Birthday phone call. It’s a lot, and it’s loud, and it’s a lot of fun.
Pulling off a story as expressive this can be a challenge, It takes real vulnerability to explore creatively, and the rapport between photographer and subject is crucial for success. Luckily, Chung and Ben go way back. “We’ve worked together a lot over the years, she’s also a good friend of mine,” explains Ben. “She’s great to work with. She’s really great at stuff like this. She’s really naturally funny which brings a lot to the table. Her humor and personality are like perfectly suited to something like this.”
The images are great fun, but don’t forget to check out the video at the end!
Ben Rayner and Jigsaw Take On The Issues of the Day
Fashion is one big conversation that started as soon as we humans began putting clothes on our backs and it continues to this day. We see styles across the street, across the ocean, across the border and incorporate them into our own language, constantly blending cultures and redefining our own. That’s why British fashion brand Jigsaw decided to make Immigration the center of their latest campaign, shot by Ben Rayner. They recognize that their work as an apparel brand is only possible because of border crossings. “Without immigration, we’d be selling potato sacks,” they say.
“It was a really nice campaign to be a part of,” says Ben. “It morphed a little bit but it was such a nice idea because Britain is a multicultural melting pot. That’s why it’s such a nice idea especially in current times when immigration sometimes is seen as negative.” To bring the message home, Ben, Jigsaw, and creative agency The Corner, cast models from all varieties of cultural backgrounds while shooting the images in a 17th century British Manor. It’s a blending. “We were tying together an English country house; really old things and new things as well,” Ben explains.
But it wasn’t all serious work on set that day. Ben is known for his images that feel intimate and of the moment – and there’s only one way to make that happen. “We knew which models we had to shoot in which outfits, but other than that we got the run of the house,” Ben says. “We really got to experiment a lot and play a lot. So we got the complete run of this awesome old manor house and it was kind of on a lot of beautiful land and it really does look as amazing as it does in the pictures.” The cast and Ben jumped from room to room, photographing set-ups that felt right in the moment, moving as they felt caused to – they were free to move and collaborate, blend ideas and work together, just like a world with no borders.
The campaign has been received beautifully and it’s restarted a conversation about immigration and fashion in the UK. Even AdAge wrote about the campaign that can be seen in and around Oxford Circus, the London equivalent of Times Square. Check it out! You don’t want to be the last one.
Ben Rayner Crosses the Atlantic with Glamour UK
So far this summer, Ben Rayner has shot two stories for Glamour UK, and what’s really remarkable about both of the stories – even with different fashion and models and locations – is that they’re both identifiably Ben’s work. His style is threaded through each image. That’s because Glamour UK has become an incredible creative partner for Ben, acting as a true collaborator, letting him execute his vision in every project. “They let me be me, and are super responsive to creative ideas about everything - everything from start to finish. Even down to layout and image selection, which is really nice and I think shows my personality in the work,” explains Ben. “The way things are seen in print is quite different. It’s nice to have such an influence on that and work with the designers and bounce ideas around.” That means that Ben’s vision isn’t limited to the bounds of the photograph’s frame, but takes part in deciding how they sit on the page, interact with the text, and lay in the magazine. It’s a holistic approach.
The first project with Glamour took him to Miami on a shoot that he kept intimate and agile. Ben and his team wanted to escape New York’s chilly June, so they headed down to Florida. Miami is often a destination for photographers because the city is so beautiful, but Ben wanted to do something a little different than the recognizable beach story. “We wanted to shoot something that wasn’t typically Miami which is why it may not be completely recognizable,” says Ben. “So it’s quite nice to go places like that but then use them in completely different ways. I’ve shot in Miami lots of times but never quite in that way.” Miami was the location but the location can always be whatever the photographer needs it to be. For this shoot, the focus was the awesome model, the great fashion, and the experience that translated to imagery – so that’s what Ben highlighted in his photographs.
Later in the summer, Ben teamed up with Glamour UK on the other side of the Atlantic. He was in London with three up and coming models to photograph their favorite pieces from the new season of runway collections. Again, though, Ben’s style isn’t to look at clothes in a vacuum. Instead, he wanted to put them in a personal context. The story ended up having a looser structure to it than traditional fashion stories, but he did that specifically so that we can imagine living in the clothes instead of just understanding them as technical pieces of constructed fabric. “The clothes are less thematic, it’s more about the personality of the girls, almost like a photo diary,” says Ben. “It’s more about the interaction so it was just a nice series.” After all, there are two ways to understand fashion: in the carefully calibrated world of the imagination, and how the clothes will actually live on regular people in the real world. Ben is all about showing the real.
Ben Rayner Gets Up Close with Liam Gallagher for ES Magazine
As one of the founding members of Oasis Liam Gallagher is a bona fide rockstar, and someone that Ben Rayner has admired since he was a kid. “Oasis has been my favorite band since I was a child. I saw them in 1996 and many times after so Liam was actually the one person I wanted to shoot my whole career,” he says. When ES Magazine called Ben to shoot Gallagher for the cover he jumped at the chance to spend time with an artist he admires and bring translate his personality to still images. “I was a huge fan so I was super happy and I am really happy how it turned out,” he says.
Part of being a total rockstar means that Gallagher has a unique energy to him. It’s that energy that makes his music specially honest and able to speak to millions of fans. It’s that power that turned him and his band into an international movement for the better part of two decades. And it’s that energy that jumps off every frame. In order to get that come through, Ben didn’t try anything fancy at all. In fact, he did the opposite. “I directed him somewhat but I wanted him to be him, so I really wanted to capture him as he is and I hope that came through,” Ben says. “He knows who he is. He’s not trying to be anything else.” Whether it’s a raised eyebrow or a grimace of consideration passing across his face, rather than offering a series of pristine moments, Ben offers a window into who Liam Gallagher is beyond the music and the fame and the tabloids. They’re quiet moments, and surprising.
Ben didn’t have a ton of time with Gallagher to get a broad range of images, they spent some time in the studio and took a stroll down the street, but Ben wanted to offer a wide look at Gallagher with a series of different aesthetics. So Ben mixed up the medium, using his regular camera, and then a few others to offer a selection of looks and feelings. “I shot it on an old Fuji instant camera from the 90s, and also a point and shoot from the 90s just to mix it up, to try some different things,” Ben says. “It can add some variety when you’re shooting a celebrity and you don’t have much time and it just adds variety to the sequence of images.” Not to mention that Oasis was such a significant band from the 90s and using equipment from that era feels appropriate. “It becomes a bit more timeless,” Ben says.
Check out Ben’s shoot of Liam Gallagher, and the rest of his portfolio here
How Ben Rayner Bridges Aesthetics with Wonderland and Diane von Furstenberg
We’re scarcely two months into 2017 and Ben Rayner is already rocking out. A slew of new projects have popped up everywhere on both sides of the pond, revealing not only a range of capabilities for Ben, but also a range of aesthetic storytelling that’s very exciting. Two of those projects, a shoot with Bella Thorne for Wonderland Magazine, and a duo of stories with legendary designer Diane von Furstenberg have very different feels on their face, but for Ben it’s all about the same thing: personality. “In all my shoots I feel like personality is the main thing I like to get across in all my shoots,” Ben explains. “I would like to feel both shoots are very relatable.”
Here’s a quick look at how he does it.
The shoot with Diane von Furstenberg has two distinct set-ups: one in an apartment and another in front of bolts of printed fabric. At first glance, this execution creates two distinct feelings, drawing a line between two distinct shoots, and that’s exactly what they wanted to do. The shoot explores these two different aesthetics inside the single line of clothing, “We wanted the stories to look completely different and feel different,” says Ben. “The apartment set up is far more playful, and more of a bedroom feeling, and the fabric studio shows off the graphic prints far more.” DVF is a master of print and silhouette, but sometimes it’s hard to show off both of those strengths at once, so Ben separated them to reveal the most powerful elements of each garment in an environment that would do it best. Since these images are fashion images, Ben had to balance light to reveal texture and color in gentle ways so we could understand the clothing. But that’s not always necessary in every project.
On the other side of the spectrum was his shoot with Bella Thorne. Of course she’s wearing beautiful clothes, but it was more about revealing who Bella Thorne is. So Ben used a bright strobe flash, giving the whole series a very poppy, bright, contrasty feel. It reflected Ben’s time with actress, showing us a clearer picture of who the young woman is thanks to his ability to play with light. “Direct flash is one of my favorite ways to shoot. I think it feels intimate and fun. Almost like we were just hanging out, which in turn is what the shoot felt like!,” says Ben. “Bella has a big personality and is a lot of fun and I feel like we really captured her energy.” Again, the shoot with Thorne required different demands from Ben as an artist, but the center of each project was the same: to reveal the most important elements of each of his subjects. He’s able to use different tools in his toolbox to do that, no matter what he finds in front of his lens.
Out Now: B&A Journal 9
Bernstein & Andriulli is more than an international agency with some of the best agents in the world, we’re a home for artists. Our roster represents creative forces that we truly believe in and whose work we want to spread to every corner of the globe. These artists are incredible talents and incredible minds, and as much as we show off all the best projects that they work on sometimes you need to get a taste of it yourself. That’s why we introduced the B&A Journal.
Every few months we pick some of the best work that’s come out of the agency and feature it in a large format, printed journal for friends, fans, and clients to thumb through at their leisure and experience the work of these world class artists in an intimate and tangible way. This week we’re releasing B&A Journal 9, and we couldn’t be more excited.
In addition to a beautiful cover shot by Ben Rayner, and dedicated pages for dozens of our artists (featured here are Platon, Marco Grob, Stephen Wilkes, Rose Blake, Guillaume Lechat, We Are The Rhoads, Serial Cut, Shotopop, and Radio), we’ve also included a special insert with this edition that formally announces our Murals department that includes a roster of public artists that rivals the best in the game.
B&A Journal 9 should be hitting your mailbox very soon - and if you want to make sure you get a copy reach out! We’d love to hear from you.
Ben Rayner from Start to Finish
Ben Rayner got his start in music photography and let the rest of his career grow from there. It’s been a natural evolution since the first time he picked up a camera in his teens. To an outsider his lack of formal training might seem like a disadvantage, but it’s actually allowed him to create a relationship with his camera and image making as a process that is more energetic and based on direct human interactions. He brought that visceral expertise in his latest shoot with Hailey Baldwin, playing off her personality in a pitch-perfect study for the way he operates. “I was trying to capture her spirit and essence and just trying to make her look great and cool and as natural as possible,” says Ben. With Hailey it was about her as a subject, but he brings the same eye to fashion.
When Ben was commissioned by apparel brand Lazy Oaf to offer his aesthetic to their lookbook, he dove right in. The tone of the brand was just the right match for his style. “The playfulness of the brand and the products was relatable,” Ben says. “It was a youthful playfulness and fun energy that I hope that came across in the work.” It’s a native match with Ben’s energy, making for effortless results.
Ben combined both the worlds of portraiture and fashion photography for UK Glamour in a shoot that acts almost as a micro chasm of the way he loves to create. “In an ideal world my fashion work is almost a photo diary of a day,” says Ben. “I’d like to make it feel like it’s just me and her. It’s that kind of feeling and aesthetic. Ultimate comfort, really, between me and the subject. These are the pictures we would make if we weren’t being commissioned by someone. A running commentary on my daily experience.” In total you can almost line all of his work up, image after image, in a parade as a single project. He wants to bring that same excitement, energy, and relatability to every image and relationship he creates with his camera in hand and deliver it as an accessible experience drawing his viewers into that world. Everything you see Ben work on is authentically Ben, lending out his point of view to all of his collaborators.
Please join us in welcoming Ben Rayner to the roster at B&A.