When you have influence, you can change the ways things are done. Beyonce will be gracing the cover of Vogue’s September issue and she had full control over it, including who to hire.
23-year old photographer, Tyler Mitchell, has broken history at the popular magazine thanks to Beyonce. Mitchell will be the first Black photographer in the magazine’s 126 years to shoot the cover issue.
Beyoncé, a dedicated champion of black artists, reportedly agreed to grace the cover of Vogue if and only if she was given full creative control of her photo shoot, even to the point of writing the captions for the images herself. True to form, she has not agreed to be interviewed for the occasion.
“The reason a 23-year-old black photographer is photographing Beyoncé for the cover of Vogue is because Beyoncé used her power and influence to get him that assignment,” an anonymous source told HuffPost. (The article also cites four sources claiming this will be Wintour’s final September issue.)
The move represents a major departure from how things are usually done by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, a famously controlling figure who is said to run her magazine with an iron fist. Although Mitchell has shot for the likes of Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, and American Eagle—even doubling as a model for the latter—and counts celebrities such as Rose McGowan and Naomi Campbell among his (now-rapidly increasing) tens of thousands of Instagram followers, he is a surprise pick for Vogue, which tends to rely on a small handful of pre-approved, highly established cover photographers.
A 2017 graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Mitchell grew up in Atlanta and took up photography as a teenager, documenting the local skateboarding scene and fashion and youth culture. He cites William Eggleston, Viviane Sassen, and Clayton Patterson as influences in his work.
“I depict black people and people of color in a really real and pure way,” Mitchell told the New York Times in a December profile. “There is an honest gaze to my photos.”
In 2015, Mitchell self-published a book, El Paquete, based on a six-week trip to Cuba. Named after Cuba’s bootleg internet—weekly downloads of Western music, movies, and television shows—the book featured Mitchell’s photos of Cuban teens skating as well as local architecture.
That same year, he spoke with Complex about the challenges of shooting high-profile celebrities. “Hopefully, I just push forward in the direction of forging real relationships between innovative image-makers and influential figures to create collaborative content,” he said. “Being in the music world and shooting famous people is really some shit I just don’t want to do…I can’t comprehend the desire to shoot someone without a real-life connection.”
It seems likely Beyoncé is of a similar mindset. The singer has previously worked closely with photographer Awol Erizku, who shot the singer and her husband Jay-Z at the Louvre museum during a 2014 trip to Paris—a precursor to their new “Apeshit” music video—as well as for her 2017 pregnancy announcement.