Tyler Mitchell, the young photographer behind Beyoncé’s Vogue cover, wants to use his art to change the world’s view of the black body.
During a sit-down with the fashion mag, Mitchell acknowledged the weight of being the first black photographer to shoot a Vogue cover.
“For so long, black people have been considered things,” he said. “We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, emotionally. With my work I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the black body.”
The significance of black photographers shooting black subjects is just one of the reasons news that Bey's hiring of Mitchell made history with the magazine, was rather bittersweet. In the 126 years since it was founded, Vogue has managed to completely ignore the plethora of black folks out here who've been impeccable with the camera skills.
His photo series, "I’m Doing Pretty Hood in My Pink Polo," is a commentary on black masculinity.
“In that series I wanted to incorporate the things that have been used against black men,” the 23-year-old said. “You see the dark side of how we’ve been victimized, but there’s a duality to the images, with their candy-colored walls.”
Mitchell’s journey into photography started after his skater friends helped him save up for a camera when he was in the ninth grade. From there, he learned his craft and began to make films.
“I’m definitely a YouTube-generation kid,” Mitchell admitted. “I learned how to make movies and how to edit that way. I quickly formed my point of view.”
He built a following on Instagram and the rest is history. When it came time to deliver for the Queen herself, Mitchell was taken aback by her personality.
When she sat down for me there was immediately the kind of comfort level you’d have with a friend, which was "quite unexpected,” he says:
“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.”
Turns out, the shoot wasn't the first time Bey and Mitchell have been in the same space together:
“It’s funny because I’m pretty sure she headlined the first concert I ever went to, when I was maybe eight or nine, so you could say we met in a past life.”
The September 2018 issue of Vogue will hit newsstands August 14.
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