Ben Rayner is a photographer whose photographs are the epitome of ease, cool and fun. He has photographed people like Felicity Jones, ASAP Rocky, Bella Hadid, Greta Gerwig, Lil Wayne, Russell Brand, Mia Goth, Alexa Chung… for magazines like Vogue Russia, The New York Times, Wonderland, Vice, Dazed and Confused… His photography is simple yet effective. It’s entertaining but not in a laughable manner but just in a smart, witty way with few hidden connotations and a good eye on what makes something interesting and worth capturing of. From dogs to models to other photographer friends, Ben captures them all in their, let’s say, natural habitat and in a way, nothing seems to be forced and everything looks just right and relaxed.
What makes you want to take photographs?
Everything! Nature, people, the ground. I kind of taking pictures of literally everything. I worked out I had an accidental series of the backs of people’s heads in the street, and colored hair. I’m really inspired by everything. I am kind of from the school of thought of shoot at the moment and then edit after. Editing is a large part of my work and makes me make sense of everything after I have shot it. I often edit work a long time after I have shot it.
When and why did you trade London for NY?
2010, I was 25. I fancied a change growing up in London my whole life, and I had been coming to NY a lot for work. I love London, but I think I like New York more. I love the energy of the city, and it still hasn’t got old for me. I am a child of the 90s so grew up watching a lot of American TV and movies, so there was some kind of romance to NYC to me. It still hasn’t left me. I was also a huge punk rock/indie rock nerd, and all the bands I liked were American. I thought I always wanted to live in New York and it was a dream come true when I finally made it.
What is your favorite thing about London and what about NY?
London: I love the buses. Everyone rides the bus in London. It’s a great way of seeing the city from high up if you ride on the top deck, two of my friends James Pearson-Howes and Will Robson-Scott did a cool photo project of photos just from the tops of buses. I also love how OLD everything is in London. And I really miss London flats. They are quite unique.
NY: I love parks, walking the streets, it’s the best place in the world to walk around. I like all the old people too. OLD New York people are so cool. I even like New York in the winter.
When you take photographs of someone who is more known, do you ever feel more pressured because they are more exposed and much more seen, so everything has to be that much better?
Not really. I have been doing this for about 13 years now, so I am really used to it. I actually shot pretty well known people very early on in my career, so I treat them the same as all my subjects. I have a very stripped back style so I like to think I can shoot more famous people in a really relaxed way so that I get some of their real personality out. Things are planned but allow spontaneity.
How would your dream shoot look like?
I don’t really have a dream shoot. I like to spend time with people to really get their true selves. I would love to shoot Chance the Rapper, Kanye, Drake, at the moment, though.
Is taking photographs something you always wanted to do?
At this stage it’s kind of the only thing I know. I originally wanted to be a music journalist, though. I even had an indie rock fanzine I published when I was 14/15. I interviewed Nine Inch Nails, Idlewild, NOFX and lots more bands. I took all the photos and wrote all the reviews too. It was obviously terrible! I used to get into every concert for free though and a mountain of promo CDs. It was awesome
Analog or digital?
I love both! I still shoot both. Film has a special place in my heart as it is what I started on but it’s not always practical.
Do you maybe remember what was the first photograph you took?
I had a camera that looked like a dinosaur when I was about 5. I probably took a photo of my brother in my back garden.
What did you want to be growing up?
Firstly a Music Journalist, then a Photographer. Before that probably a footballer?
Whose work do you admire the most?
Wolfgang Tillmans. He’s my fave. He shoots everything. He is a big inspiration. I shot him, and he was a wonderful man.
What was your first real job?
I worked in KFC in London. I got paid minimum wage and got shouted out constantly. It was horrible.
Do you ever Google yourself?
Sure. There’s also a well known music journalist in Canada with my name.
When was the last time you had a sleepless night?
Do you skate?
Not in 2017. I stopped quite early. I love skateboarding, though.
For more pictures, have a look at Ben Rayner’s Instagram account here
Words by Katja Horvat