On Monday, Beyoncé’s Vogue September issue spread was finally revealed. Tyler Mitchell, who is 23 years old, was hired for the job, making him the first black photographer to shoot a cover in Vogue’s 126-year history.
“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,” writes Beyoncé in an as-told-to feature with Clover Hope. “That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.”
According to earlier rumors, it was Beyoncé who chose to work with Mitchell, and her text suggests as much. But in an exclusive interview with Business of Fashion, Anna Wintour clarifies that the concept and the photographer were “entirely Vogue’s,” specifically the idea of Condé Nast creative director Raul Martinez.
“After being presented with options for photographers, Knowles immediately approved of Mitchell, recognizing the historic implications of the choice,” BoF reports.
Beyond the fact that Vogue took 126 years to hire a black cover photographer at all, Mitchell’s assignment is actually not that surprising. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. He may be young, but Mitchell has an impressive résumé as a photographer and video director, which includes previous jobs at Condé Nast as well as a history of working with the Knowles family. It’s worth familiarizing yourself with his work if you don’t know him already.
“For so long, black people have been considered things,” Mitchell said in a Vogue interview, published Monday. “We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, emotionally. With my work I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the black body.”
Originally from Atlanta, Mitchell gained critical attention in 2015 with a self-published book of photos capturing Cuban skate culture and architecture, which he did as part of a documentary photography program in Havana. His work was picked up by magazines like i-D, and he started gaining a following on Instagram. (He now has almost 70,000 followers.) By the time he’d graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2017 with a B.F.A. in film and television, he’d also shot Lil Uzi Vert for the cover of Fader and worked with brands like Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Converse, and American Eagle.
Since graduating, Mitchell has photographed Spike Lee for the cover of Office and actress Zazie Beetz for Vogue’s May 2018 issue; worked on the photos and video for Teen Vogue’s March for Our Lives feature, which is when Martinez claims he first spotted him; and captured Solange’s performance-art piece at the Hammer Museum, among other projects.
Mitchell may be on the fast track to success, but he seems intent on taking his time and bringing others with him for the ride. “There was a ladder for the people who came before me, and there’s a ladder now — it’s just a new ladder,” Mitchell told Vogue. “I want to open the eyes of the kids younger than me, show them that they can do this too.”
This post has been updated to include Beyoncé’s Vogue spread.