The following interview forms part of a series where I invite a number of contemporary artists to each reflect on their personal history, meaning and philosophy, and how those are expressed throughout their creative process.
This week I talk to Chantel King, a beauty and fashion photographer based in London who “loves creating visual stories that have a cinematic edge”. Being a black female photographer, she has talked about an awareness of the lack of representation of people like her in front of and behind the camera. Her portfolio is a reflection of those in society whom she wants to see.
In our interview, she talks more of her experience as a black female in the photography industry, the POC in the beauty and fashion world whom she thinks are due more attention, and what she perceives to be the value of being “fashionable”.
You write that as a black female photographer, you “have seen a lack of representation of people that look like [you] both in front of the camera and behind it”. Since being in the industry, how much progress have you noticed in that regard?
In my 10-year industry experience I have never worked with a black photographer and that speaks volumes. Anyone can pick up a camera however not everyone can afford one. One way to help advance change is for the government to introduce more grant schemes for black and brown people from underprivileged backgrounds, recently I have seen a rise in these schemes, which is brilliant to see.
In regard to models, I still see a small percentage of ethnic minorities in the model packages I request. Model agencies needs to do more to ensure their agency are widely diverse, this also means paying more attention to their black and brown models who are already on their books. Within the last two years I have noticed a shift but more needs to be done.
On that same note, where do you think the industry still needs most work?
The most work needs to come from the team/creatives that commission the photographers. We are continually seeing the same photographer’s get commissioned and what we get are the same styles and looks within campaigns and magazines, this narrative needs to change. An example where this change has happened is British Vogue since ‘Edward Enninful’ became Editor-in-Chief he continually commissions a variety of creatives from different backgrounds thus giving the magazine a fresh new voice.
Another area is not only hiring black or brown photographers to photograph black or brown models/talent or for Black History Month. This message again is putting these creatives into a box. Showcasing a diverse portfolio is how it should be for all creatives; I am a black photographer, but I do not only photograph black or brown people.
Sadly, there is still a lack of make-up and hair stylists who do not know how to work with black skin and black hair, this is a blatant disregard to those models. I have been on many shoots where the black or brown models have had to style their own hair or the make-up does not match their skin tones, what message does that bring to the model; that there not important. Many make-up and hair schools do not cover black hair or make-up within the syllabus – this should be made mandatory across the board.
Who are some people of colour in the beauty and fashion world you think we should be paying more attention to?
Ateh Jewel – Beauty Journalist
Funmi Fetto – Beauty Editor/Director
Charlotte Mensah – Hair Artist
Candice Brathwaite – News Personality
Patrice Hall – Owner & Founder of Kitaka of London
Ajok Madel – Model
Top black and brown photographers to watch are Nadine Ijewere, Campbell Addy, Tyler Mitchell, Christina Ebenezer, Sharif Hamza, Rafael Pavarotti & Misan Harriman
In your opinion, what is the value of being “fashionable”?
In regards to photography being fashionable is about following trends, keeping up with the new looks and styles so my portfolio looks current.
What does it mean to you to be vulnerable as an artist?
As an artist everything you do is on display. When I shoot, I am not only tapping into the model I am also tapping into myself. It can be scary putting myself out there but showing vulnerability is also a sign of strength.
If you were to envision a new photograph that emulated your current experience in the world, what might it include?
It would emulate a wall breaking down, climbing through that wall would be people of colour, women, those with disabilities and people from the LGBTQ+ communities.