Slater King on creativity, morality and the white gaze

The London-based photographer discusses how recent events have brought society’s ‘blind spots’ into sharp focus, and his belief that all creative work is moral work

The spotlight shone by the Black Lives Matter movement has led to much soul searching among individuals and industries over the past year. For the creative industries in particular, it has sparked debate around the problematic nature of the ‘white gaze’. While this is a concept that Black and brown people have had to deal with for generations, white people are only just beginning to confront the overt whiteness of the culture they’ve created.

While the tide could be seen to be turning – in recent months CR has spoken to organisations and individuals who are decolonising the creative industries and addressing the lack of diversity in design book publishing, among other things – the fact remains that much of western culture has been built on familiar clichés and damaging stereotypes.

The history of photography in particular goes hand in hand with the white perspective, dating back to colonial times when it was relied on as a way to perpetuate biases and solidify the importance of the colonial gaze. You only have to look at old issues of the National Geographic – a magazine that has only recently acknowledged its racist past – or the fact that Steve McCurry’s controversial 1984 portrait Afghan Girl is still one of the world’s most recognisable photographs, to witness the troubling results of the white gaze.

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For photographer Slater King, identity and perspective is something that imagemakers should be keeping top of mind throughout their practice “My opinion is that all creative work is constructed, even reportage photography is picked, framed and edited. When you look at the image of another person, whether that’s a picture, a painting, or whatever it happens to be, you create a biography of that person. It’s one of the things that we humans do,” he tells CR.

JUNIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Milton Keynes