125 Years in the Making

Staff Writer: Ian Clark

In the 125 years that Vogue has existed, it has served as a figurehead for high-end culture. In the 125 years that Vogue has existed, it has been capturing the lifestyle of the most alluring celebrities and explaining the stories behind the fascination. However, in that same 125 years, there has never been an African-American photographer scouted to shoot the cover.

Tyler Mitchell, at 23 years old, is also one of the youngest photographers to shoot the iconic cover. Mitchell, hailing from Atlanta, has always had a passion for his career. According to The Guardian, he was in the ninth grade when he bought his first camera, initially intended to make skateboard tutorial videos for YouTube. This seemingly minuscule decision ignited his future in photography, one that has allowed him to be able to shoot with the likes of Beyoncé.

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Tyler Mitchell, 23, is pictured in a self-portrait in pink: Photographer of Vogue’s September cover story. Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell

“I cried three times already this morning,” Mitchell describes in a tweet, eagerly announcing his well-deserved partnership with Vogue. The young photographer is shocked and of course, grateful to have this opportunity. Mitchell has been well known in the Atlanta art scene for some time now, especially among the black community.

His work has been known for being able to capture the young and colorful experience as an African-American, cited best in the form of collaborations and shoots with artists such as Lil Uzi Vert (The FADER, February 2017), Vince Staples (Dazed, August 2016) and Spike Lee (Office Magazine.) Clearly having his foot in the door, him being recruited to shoot for Vogue was no surprise.

His tone in interviews is insightful, forward-looking, and vibrant; the symptoms of a hopeful artist, following his dreams. With this most recent shoot, Vogue gathered multiple photographers, and Beyoncé, being familiar with his work, chose him out of the lineup to capture her for the magazine’s September cover.

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Beyoncé, outside, observing the nature around her. Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell.

Naya Clark, former Woodstock High School student, journalist and avid reader of the acclaimed magazine said that she’s glad that someone like him was chosen to shoot the cover, claiming that it’ll “open doors” for younger black creatives looking for a future in the arts.

With Mitchell’s work being so transparent, his story-telling skills are surreal, without ever having to use words. The photos of Beyoncé capture a self-sufficient woman, in her purest form. She is pictured wearing a decorative garland on her head, an externalization of her lush, yet vibrant personality. She looks directly into the camera, radiating a natural authoritarian essence, not demanding respect, but anticipating it.

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Beyoncé with a crown of flowers. Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell.

Despite Tyler and Beyoncé never having done a shoot together, she looks surprisingly comfortable in front of the camera. Of course: this could just be because she’s Beyoncé, but a small part of the reader in everybody likes to think that it’s because of some unwritten, sacred photographer-model relationship. Keimani Smith, an African-American sophomore at Woodstock says, “It’s really inspiring…” after hearing the news of Mitchell’s success.

As this article was being written, Vogue’s September issue was being shipped to subscribers’ mailboxes around the country. To many, this was a moment of realization, to be experiencing something so monumental in media and culture shift into a more diverse area. Beyoncé herself even says in her interview with Vogue, that it’s important to “be seen”, in the sense that understanding that someone who comes from a similar background, or has similar interests as you can be successful, prosperous, and recognized for personal accomplishments. She cites her mother as a prime source of this advice, which she states she lets be common knowledge to her own children (Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir), even at a very young age. With Beyoncé being such an influence on the culture, the impact that this will have on her children will be monumental.

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Beyoncé Knowles is pictured in a cream suit by Wales Bonner, against a faux theatre backdrop. Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell.

Tyler’s success doesn’t seem to be slowing down after this shoot either. After his session with Beyoncé, he’s begun working on personal projects, and one can only assume he’s gotten inquiries to work with more legendary names, and the art scene is ready to see what he’s got in store. But until then, Vogue’s latest issue will suffice.

He sums up the feeling of the entire body of work with the following quote, said in his interview with Vogue: “For so long, black people have been considered things; We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, emotionally. With my work I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the black body.”

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Beyoncé in a typically masculine pose, displaying dominance. Photo Courtesy of Vogue.com. Photographed by Tyler Mitchell.

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