The first black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover is also the youngest.
Beyoncé exerted unprecedented control over her September 2018 cover, and the singer handpicked 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell to shoot her cover and accompanying spread.
As Mitchell’s star is rising, people are wondering who this up-and-coming artist is.
Who is Tyler Mitchell?
Surprisingly, photography has not always been Mitchell’s passion. Skateboarding gained his interest before still images did, and the interests melded together.
“Of course there’s the surface-level cool and rebel spirit about skateboarding,” Mitchell told Vogue, “but the thing that makes skaters like artists runs deeper than that: It’s not a sport that’s built on competition, it’s one that thrives on community.”
Mitchell’s community of skater friends came together to aid him in purchasing his first DSLR Canon in the ninth grade. With Spike Jonze as his inspiration, the Vogue photographer sought to make skating videos.
YouTube became his teacher. Mitchell learned the basics of videography and video editing through 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.”
During his high school, he shot his aesthetically cool skating videos as well as music videos for indie rappers like Kevin Abstract.
With the help of a home-made horror film, the young artist was accepted into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Before landing the history-making role at Vogue, Mitchell worked for brands like Marc Jacobs and American Eagle. He also shot the Teen Vogue spread featuring the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors.
Even with his impressive resume, however, Mitchell does not consider himself to be a fashion photographer.
“I don’t look at what I do as fashion photography all the time. It’s probably how I’ve been branded and named and I’m okay with that because it allows me to work with interesting people, publications, and clothes all of which ultimately push an idea through photography,” he told Lomography in 2016. “But a lot of times fashion work uses photography to tell stories about clothing. I find that extremely boring and it’s a sad attempt to sell you on something rather than just be.”
Mitchell is mainly interested in capturing black people in a way that both dignifies the community and takes control of black people’s narrative.
“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.”
Having the opportunity to shoot Vogue’s September issue is huge, especially as Mitchell is the first black photographer to work with the renowned magazine in its 126-year history.
Beyoncé chose Mitchell because she feels as though it is important to give the next generation opportunity. A new generation has the freedom to shape the world however they see fit.
“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,” Beyoncé wrote in the magazine.
Working With Beyonce
Beyoncé’s September Vogue issue uses an old English country home as its backdrop. Mitchell’s photographs tread between sophistication and playfulness, poise and calm.
Mitchell tells the magazine that working with Beyoncé was a great experience, which was a pleasant surprise. He says:
“When she sat down for me there was immediately the kind of comfort level you’d have with a friend, which was quite unexpected. You’d imagine someone as famous as Beyoncé to be protective of her image, but she was really an open book—and that’s exactly what you want as a photographer.”
While Mitchell just finished a fashion photographer’s most coveted job, his career can really only go up from here.
Featured Image via Vogue
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