Meet Tyler Mitchell, The Beyonce-Selected Black Photographer Making History With 'Vogue'

Culture & Entertainment

Beyoncé has the fashion world going APESH*T with recent news that she will cover this year's September issue of Vogue.

This will be her second time gracing the illustrious September issue. As one of only four black women to ever cover the September issue (including Naomi Campbell, Halle Berry and Lupita Nyong'o), this is a pretty big deal in the fashion industry. But in true Beyoncé style, a little history isn't quite enough. Not only will she grace the cover, she has retained full editorial control over her image and will be writing all of the captions, too. According to The Huffington Post:

"The publication is contractually obligated to give Beyoncé full control over the cover, the photos of her inside the magazine and the captions, which she has written herself and are in long-form, according to two sources who are familiar with the agreement between Vogue and Beyoncé but aren't authorized to speak to the press."

If you know anything about the fashion magazine, the September issue is THE issue of the year. The cover is the most coveted, and Anna Wintour exerts full control over every detail—from the wardrobe to the photographer to the questioning in the interview of the cover star. While it is reported that Beyoncé will not be giving an interview, she one-ups everyone with this last detail seemingly overlooked by the mainstream media. She has commissioned Tyler Mitchell as the first black photographer to ever shoot the cover of Vogue in the publications 126-year history. Go back and read that again. Iconic!

But who is Tyler Mitchell?

The 23-year-old Atlanta native may be young, but he has already established himself as one to watch. The photographer and videographer was recently named by Dazed as one of "25 emerging photographers to put on your radar now", and with the Beyoncé co-sign, he is now on all of our radars. As a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Mitchell got his start early on by capturing the New York and Atlanta skate, fashion, and music culture.

He's also has major collaborations under his belt like working with rapper Kevin Abstract and designer Marc Jacobs. With credits that include Teen Vogue, i-D Magazine, Dazed, Vogue US, Office Magazine, Candy Magazine, and The FADER, the photographer is no stranger to the print magazine world. Mitchell has also self-published his first photography book entitled El Paquete, which captures the emerging skate culture and architecture of Cuba.

And unless you've been living under a rock, we have seen Beyoncé morph into an unapologetic black queen who uses every opportunity to flex her black culture like a superpower and watching her make us all proud of our blackness. From the Lemonade visuals to her epic Coachella performances, Bey has established a clear motive in the way she wants to depict herself: a strong, black woman.

Perhaps this is why she has chosen Mitchell to shoot her for the cover of Vogue. He tells The New York Times of his own works:

"I depict black people and people of color in a really real and pure way. There is an honest gaze to my photos."

This honest gaze is one thing we can look forward to. Mitchell is also very serious about his craft and is no iPhone photographer. While he doesn't dismiss the digital art space, Mitchell is very aware of the relevance that print publications still have. And while many publications are moving away from the printed page and onto hand-held devices, there is still something very special and ironically nostalgic about picking up a publication and being able to flip through its pages. Mitchell tells Dazed Digital:

"I think magazines are a great way to be like, 'This is important enough to be published on the printed page.'"

With this opportunity, whether he likes it or not, Mitchell have an important obligation to get it right. This moment in black history rests on his shoulders (no pressure), but based on his prior works and the very few interviews he's given, it seems that Mitchell is up for the challenge. He tells Dazed Digital that he wants to remove all of the labels we normally associate with the black body and remind everyone of our humanity. He says:

"My work attempts, on some level, to depict black men and black people first and foremost as not just 'things'. And I employ aesthetic beauty to do that. We have been 'thingified' in this country – bodily, sexually, emotionally, and socially. The works try to break free of any notion of this 'thingification'. It tries to just breathe. There's a softness that I like to evoke, that isn't sexualised, or sensationalised, it just is. It's inherently human; being black."

Mitchell seems to understand his role as a minority photographer on the verge of stardom. Prior to this announcement, Mitchell said that he wants his work to allow others to see themselves in it, especially those who have been underrepresented. He reveals:

"One thing I want in life is to make pictures that enable other kids to feel themselves and feel all of themselves. Especially kids who historically haven't felt that before."

Congratulation, Tyler. I know I for sure will be running to the store to pick up my copy when it hits stands. To find out more about Tyler, head to his site: tylermitchell.co.

Featured image via Tyler Mitchell/Instagram

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