Rankin's best shot
'This was taken at a time when we didn't really care about health and safety'
This is quite an old picture. It was for a fashion story for Dazed and Confused magazine called Highly Flammable, in 1997 or 1998.
At the time, a lot of clothes were made out of that horrible shiny nylon material. I was at a party, and my ex-wife, who was always very critical and amusingly ironic about fashion, said to me that if someone set light to these kids at the party, they'd all burn immediately. It made me think it might make for a funny set of images.
I photographed them in the studio with very soft daylight, and then I had the images made into life-size cut-outs. I did a similar thing with Pulp, where we made cut-outs of them for an album cover. Then I took the cut-outs into the street and set them alight. I just threw on a load of lighter fluid. There's lots of pictures of my assistants jumping out of the way. It was at a time when we didn't really care about health and safety.
I shot it on film, on a tripod, because it was quite a long exposure. I didn't use any flash, but there is a very little bit of retouching. I just took out the stand for the cut-out, which was pointing out of the back a little.
The photo is a bit of a dig at fashion, the shallowness and emptiness of the industry, which can take itself far too seriously. You've got to balance out the seduction and what you enjoy about it with a little bit of cynicism. I think that pervades my work in general. I'm asking, "Why am I seduced by this? Why do I like it so much?" That's what the piece is about.
Interview by Leo Benedictus