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Creative Creative Works The Queen

‘It’s human to be self-critical’: Rankin clarifies comments about Queen’s hands


By Rankin Waddell, Photographer

November 23, 2022 | 8 min read

World-renowned photographer and creative agency owner Rankin recently found himself in The Times (then the Telegraph, Independent, Mail, Country Living...) having commented on the Queen’s hands during a podcast. Here he tells his side of the story...


Rankin’s photographs of Twiggy and the late Queen Elizabeth II / Rankin

Looking through my old laptop, I just found this gorgeous picture of Twiggy. Which is quite serendipitous, as I was on her podcast ‘Tea with Twiggy,’ just released the other day.

Interestingly, something I said during the podcast got lifted and turned into a news item. So I ended up in The Times talking about the Queen not liking her hands. It’s quite weird when that happens, especially when you haven’t done an actual interview so you don’t expect to see your face on the scroll (plus, the picture of me was awful).

The reason I find it so interesting is that when the Queen passed, I decided not to do 95% of the media requests I received. It just felt wrong to talk about somebody I’d only met for 15 minutes like I would be promoting myself through her death. That was very personal to me, and no judgment on those that did.

Anyway, now some time has passed and this story came up, it made me think that I should probably clarify my comment on the Queen. When I met her, we were in the throne room at Buckingham Palace, and thinking I was being clever, I said: “I really want to photograph you holding the sword,” (the one she knights people with) and her reply was: “I don’t like my hands.”

Although there may be some truth to her ‘not liking her hands,’ I think it really was just a polite royal way of the Queen telling me to ‘piss off’ and not be cheeky. But I guess after her passing, this ‘titbit’ is now news, as it is a great story. You could call this ‘learned media’ – as in, learn to keep your gob shut.

Saying all of that, as a portrait photographer I do have to say that most people really don’t like ‘bits’ of themselves. In fact, for a number of years it was my way of explaining to people that film stars and supermodels were just like the rest of us – human. We all have pet dislikes and there is very little a photographer or even apps such as Facetune can do to fix them. We all fixate on ourselves, especially me.

I hate my teeth, my paunch, my feet, my height... God, the list goes on. The only ace thing about getting older is that you start to care less and less about it – almost as much, and rather sadly in parallel, as you stop recognizing yourself in mirrors and shop windows.

I know it’s pretty normal and a bit self-obsessive, but after years of considering the effect of marketing, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not just because we’ve had all of these beauty standards thrown at us for so many years. It’s a human condition to be self-critical and to compare ourselves to each other.

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If you go back to the height of Photoshop, it would be the actual use of it and the unrealistic and unobtainable perfection of retouching that would be getting front-page news. Our use (or misuse) of it was a massive debate and, of course, there was validity in that. However, all you have to do is look at social media to see that the conceit is far more complicated, and when you put retouching in the hands of the audience, a large section of them use it without debate, discussion or outrage.

Conversely, really ace photography, marketing and advertising are much more than that. It is emotional storytelling and there is nothing wrong with a bit of fantasy, humor or taboo smashing.

At Rankin Creative we are obsessed with people, and our strategic thinking is anchored in getting people to think, feel or do something – a behavior change brands should want to inspire. Why people feel the way they do, who people are and how what they say or do differs.

All strategy is and should be anchored in understanding people – it has nothing to do with old-fashioned, new-fashioned. People, behavior changes and the role brands can, and should, play in their lives is about as simple or as complicated as it gets.

That’s what humans love – storytelling. This is why I told the story about the Queen. Behind the position, which she didn’t choose but was born into, she was human, and that was very easy to forget. That is especially true when you watch something like The Crown and the dramatization. After all, the Queen had to play that part for 70 years, not just a few hours on Netflix – even if Imelda Staunton is ace at it.

There is a fab Winston Churchill quote about the Queen that kind of sums this all up: “All the film people in the world, if they had scoured the globe, could not have found anyone so suited to the part.”

So I guess that’s why her hands are news, because we still want to discuss what we do and don’t like about ourselves. Especially when it’s about someone that is almost untouchable, even deified.

I want people to know that I made the comment on the Queen pre her passing, which is why I dwelt on the hands a bit, as I thought it was funny and human. It was from a place of respect. Respect for her duty, sacrifice and humanity. Now I wouldn’t mention them. King Charles and his hands, however...

Creative Creative Works The Queen

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