When Beyonce handpicked 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell to shoot the cover images and accompanying spread, after being given unprecedented creative control over her September 2018 Vogue Cover edition, instantly, a moment of history was created.
This is the first time in Vogue ‘s 126 years history that a cover was shot by a black photographer. And for Mitchell, he has quickly become a “one to watch” rising artist, not just because he is young or good, but because of his unique approach to his art. As he described it to The New York Times in 2017, Tyler said he “depicts black people and people of colour in a really real and pure way”. He also added. “There is an honest gaze to my photos”
Tyler is a young photographer and filmmaker from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a graduate from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, finishing in September 2017. Less than a year since he finished school, his resume includes work for Marc Jacobs, American Eagle, i-D, The Fader, and the Teen Vogue spread that featured students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018.
Despite his rising reputation, Mitchell doesn’t think of himself as a “fashion photographer.” According to information on his website, he started off making skate videos, and that attention to youth culture led him to photograph other rising stars like Jaden Smith and Amandla Stenberg.
On why she chose him for the shoot, Beyonce said in the interview that “Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.”
Mitchell saved up to buy his first camera—a Digital SLR Canon while he was in ninth grade, with the help of some of his skater friends in Marietta, the Atlanta suburb where he grew up. Drawing inspiration from the dreamy aesthetic of Spike Jonze’s early skate videos, Tyler set about teaching himself to make his own videos, with the help of online tutorials. “I’m definitely a YouTube-generation kid,” says Mitchell. “I learned how to make movies and how to edit that way. I quickly formed my point of view.”
Being the first African American photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue in its 126-year history, is a fact that is not lost on the young photographer. “For so long, black people have been considered things,” he adds. “We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, emotionally. With my work, I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the black body.” he concludes.
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