Models Ayesha Marr and Sharon Bright photographed by Chantel King for the XX Revolution Metalixx range
Studio PI photographer Chantel King was honoured to have the opportunity to work with Revolution Beauty to help launch the innovative make-up brand’s new XX Revolution Metalixx range.
The brand – which prides itself on producing cruelty-free make-up, skincare and hair care products that are “ageless, unisex and affordable” – wanted to pay a lasting tribute to the ongoing Black Lives Matter campaign.
Announcing King’s participation in the shoot, Revolution Beauty set out what had inspired it: “Afrofuturism. We will support black-owned businesses, black beauty content creators, creatives, make-up artists and hair stylists.”
“I was really happy with how the shoot went,” says King. “It was my first big campaign and for them to put their trust in me was a great compliment. It was a collaboration, but as the photographer you’re producing the end result, so there’s a pressure. But the whole team was so professional and it was great to work with them to create something beautiful.”
Revolution Beauty decided to commission an all-black, all-female crew, which included photography assistant Selene Shaw, make-up artist Bernicia Boateng and make-up assistant Jennifer Ogoro, hair stylist Nicola Harrowell-Browne and hair stylist assistant Sherean Miller. The shoot stylist was Erica Matthews and the stylist’s assistant was Kara Graham. Nail tech was Aliyah Johnson and the models were Sharon Oostendorp, Ayesha Marr and Kaeleen Stammers. Needless to say, even the shoot location, Studio One, is black-owned.
“Having worked as an assistant and running photography studios for ten years, I’ve never come across this kind of project before,” says King. When her assistant on the shoot admitted that it was the first time she’d worked with a black photographer, King had to admit that she hadn’t previously worked with a black photographer, either.
To make underrepresented photographers and illustrators more visible is a core aim of Studio PI as a creative agency, and while the Revolution Beauty shoot was doubtless an exciting landmark, the goal is to make it the norm.
“I’ve seen so much unconscious racist bias within this industry over the years,” says King. “For example, when I plan a photo shoot with a black model, I find myself having to ask the make-up artist or hair stylist, ‘Can you do black skin?’ or ‘Can you do black hair?’ We shouldn’t have to ask that, but stylists are just not getting taught about how to work with black skin or black hair. They should be. While they’re training they should be able to learn about all types of hair, all types of skin. Why not?”
King is well aware that many black models take their own make-up to shoots and they can often feel sidelined. “You grow to accept it and don’t feel you can speak up as the lone voice.” Although King understands that many brands are reluctant to centre black models in their campaigns, she is hopeful of many more positive experiences, much like the one she had with Revolution Beauty.
“It was a great atmosphere on the shoot. Everyone was really excited, there was music playing, it was really relaxed. It felt empowering being among these great professionals. Seeing us create something together, and why not?”
While tragedies such as the death of George Floyd have put Black Lives Matter on the front pages of newspapers, lasting cultural change will come from people of all colours and backgrounds seeing themselves represented in fashion and beauty shoots and in lifestyle stories. Knowing that the people creating these images and stories are like them, too, will prove just as important.
Chantel King has every reason to be happy right now. “Doing this shoot, with a team like this, has been one of the defining moments of my career to date.”
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