This Twentysomething Instagrammer Photographed This Month’s Vogue Cover Featuring Beyonce
And to think that all he initially wanted to do was make skateboarding videos.
After saving up for his first camera, a digital SLR Canon, Tyler Mitchell taught himself to shoot skate videos as inspired by the director Spike Jonze’s work (Her, Being John Malkovich). “I’m definitely a YouTube-generation kid,” he said in an interview with Vogue. “I learned how to make movies and how to edit that way. I quickly formed my point of view.”
Tyler is the photographer of the most-talked-about magazine cover this month: Beyonce in American Vogue. The pop star known for her perfectionism was said to have been given by the magazine complete creative control over her cover feature. Part of her privilege was picking the photographer. And she couldn’t have chosen a more suprising one: she picked a young Instagrammer largely unknown in the mainstream fashion radar.
Tyler is unique in many ways. He didn’t follow the tried-and-true formula to land a cushy photography career. No creative agents, no fashion photography training, no fancy networking.
For starters, he made a short horror movie with his parents’ help. “I kept my mom and dad up all night filming it,” he gleefully recounted to Vogue, “and used fishhooks to make the drawers look like they were moving on their own.” That film earned him a spot in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where he eventually learned to make music videos.
With only an Instagram account as his curated portfolio, Tyler had no idea that this would indirectly catapult him to where he’s at now.
Afterwards, his feature on teen activists against school shootings went live on Teen Vogue, which got him shortlisted by Condé Nast’s Corporate Creative Director, Raul Martinez. This list was pitched to Beyonce, who “immediately approved” Tyler as her photographer for her US Vogue cover shoot.
He had also previously worked on a shoot with Solange Knowles, Beyonce’s sister.
For this month’s Vogue cover, the magazine’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour told Business of Fashion that “the concept and the photographer was entirely Vogue’s, specifically Raul’s.” She also dispelled rumors that the star’s “unprecedented creative control” over the shoot was an exaggeration, and more of a collaboration between the magazine, Queen Bey, and of course, Tyler.
Now that he’s one of the youngest photographers for Vogue, he’s taken this chance to express his activism for the Black community.
“For so long, Black people have been considered things,” he said in his Vogue interview. “We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, emotionally. With my work I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the black body.”
Describing himself as a “concerned photographer,” Tyler also represents his generation’s way of harnessing its voice—utterly fearless, socially connected, and politcally aware—to influence the present and upcoming culture. “I want to open the eyes of the kids younger than me, show them that they can do this too.”