Who the hell is Tyler Mitchell?
All about the photographer who shot Beyoncé for Vogue’s September issue
Twenty three year old, Tyler Mitchell has made history as the first African-American photographer to shoot the cover for Vogue in the 125 years of its existence, which just shows the long-overdue changes the fashion industry needs.
In ninth-grade, Mitchell was drawn to the skate scene, especially because it was a sport that was built on community instead of competition. Inspired by the almost dream-like skate videos of Spike Jones, Mitchell saved up for a Digital DSLR Canon and soon started documenting skate culture. As a millennial-born artist, Youtube was his best friend when it came to learning how to shoot and edit movies. It wasn’t soon after that when he found his own stylistic footing.
As an established photographer, inclusivity and a sense of community has become an ingrained philosophy in his work ever since his intrigue with the skate scene. One of his other major contributions was his Teen Vogue digital cover on gun reform. For this project, he travelled around America to meet with gun activists, including survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida. He directed a short in which these activists lying on the floor of school hallways pleading: “You’re killing us”. It’s artworks like this which represents Mitchell as someone that reflects the socially-engaged youth of today.
As a black artist himself, he also acknowledges the plights of being African-American and the need to dispel false depictions of the race. “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,” Mitchell said in a Vogue interview.
Although only graduating from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University last September, he has worked with many well-acclaimed artists and brands. Not only did he direct music videos for cerebral and uprising American boy band, Brockhampton, he has also shot campaigns for brands such as Givenchy, American Eagle, and Marc Jacobs.
When asked what kind of a photographer he is, Mitchell immediately answers that he is a “concerned photographer”. In a world where the political climate is tense, Mitchell is part of a group of rising artists that aren’t afraid of talking about social issues in their artistic work.
In Beyoncé’s diary-esque entries in Vogue’s September issue, she talks about the importance of working with Mitchell. “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.”
Recruiting a talented African-American photographer to shoot a talented celebrity of the same race is only a small step to giving minorities a seat at the table. We only hope that with the rise of Mitchell, many other artist of colour are given the same opportunity to show their talents.
Words: Jenny Qian
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