Photographer Tyler Mitchell Just Made Vogue History

Update: The rumors were true! Beyoncé’s Vogue cover is here, and it was, in fact, shot by Tyler Mitchell. In an interview with Business of Fashion on Monday, Anna Wintour revealed that Condé Nast’s creative director, Raul Martinez, presented the photographer to Beyoncé. Though Mitchell has worked with her record label, Parkwood, as well as with her sister, Solange, the photographer still thought it was a prank when Condé Nast asked him to shoot Beyoncé for the September issue of Vogue.
For the piece, Beyoncé wrote captions to accompany Mitchell’s photographs, divulging her ancestry, her difficult child birth, and her journey towards accepting her body. “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,” she explains. “That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.”
She continues: “When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell. Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”
Wintour tells BoF that a video component to the shoot will be released at a later date.
This article was originally published July 31, 2018.
No, Anna Wintour is not leaving her post at Vogue, Conde Nast confirmed with a Tweet on Tuesday, but the editrix is reportedly handing over the reins (at least temporarily) to Queen Bey, who is rumored to be covering the September 2018 issue. Beyoncé reportedly has creative control over the entire issue, including who would shoot the cover: 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell. If true, this will be the first time in Vogue’s 126-year history that a Black photographer shot a cover. The Huffington Post is reporting that Beyoncé specifically requested Mitchell, using her influence to secure the cover for him as Vogue “prefers to hire fashion photographers with more traditional experience and likely would not have selected Mitchell for a cover shoot,” a source told Huff Po.
While it’s sad it took Beyoncé to go outside of Vogue’s insular bubble for talent, Mitchell is far from unknown in the fashion industry. He began gaining attention for his work after publishing a book of photos, El Paquete, in 2015 as part of a documentary photography program according to The Times. Mitchell received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and television from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. He told The Times in 2017, he liked to “depict Black people and people of color in a really real and pure way,” he said. “There is an honest gaze to my photos.” He’s shot for Marc Jacobs, i-D, Dazed, Givenchy, and The Fader. SZA, Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful, and Solange Knowles all follow him on Instagram.
Besides photography, when Mitchell isn’t doubling as a model for the short film he shot and directed for American Eagle, the Atlanta-native really likes to wax poetic about Jaden Smith, telling Complex he’s looked up to Smith for a really long time. “I’m an upper middle class Black kid and truthfully, we’re a super rare breed,” Mitchell said in 2015. “A lot of white people and Black people alike can’t fully comprehend being somewhere in between worlds. I know Jaden identifies with that, and I know I identify with Jaden because of that.”
Mitchell’s identity comes into play in his more recent work, too. “I was always mentally placing myself in relation to others and very conscious of my Blackness. There’s a form of what I can only describe as ‘racial schizophrenia’ that goes on in the mind of an adolescent boy,” Mitchell wrote in his artist’s statement for the exhibition, “2018 Aperture Summer Open: The Way We Live Now, on view at the Aperture Foundation in New York now through August 16. “I am synthesizing what I see to be a full range of expression possible for a Black man in the future.”
Mitchell told The Times in 2017 he was thought magazines were “a great way to be like, ‘This is important enough to be published on the printed page.’” Well, it sounds like Mitchell and Beyoncé are together reimagining Blackness on the pages of Vogue, something that is long overdue and something we can’t wait to see.
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