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Tyler Mitchell: The cover story of Beyonce & # 39; s Vogue

Tyler Mitchell: The cover story of Beyonce & # 39; s Vogue

The fourth cover of Beyoncé by American Vogue was a story. Not because she was the first black woman on the cover (Beverly Johnson, 1974), not because she was the first black woman to cover a September issue (Naomi Campbell, 1989), and not because she had collected the covers more than Vogue as a woman of color (Shari Belafonte and Rihanna have five). Instead, for the first time in history, the cover of American Vogue was taken by a black photographer: Tyler Mitchell.
Cover of Vogue with Naomi Campbell (1989)

Cover of Vogue with Naomi Campbell (1989)

"When I started 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get into magazine covers because blacks were not selling," wrote Beyoncé in her extensive captions that accompanied the imaginary. "Clearly a myth has been demonstrated: not only is an African-American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first cover of Vogue taken by an African American photographer."
Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue Credit: Tyler Mitchell

In 126 years of Vogue, the magazine has had various permutations. It started as a weekly, transformed into a biweekly and finally in 1973 it was monthly. Representatives of Condé Nast indicate a 1932 cover of Edward Steichen of a woman in a bathing suit as the beginning of the cover photograph from the publication, but 1959 brought the first year of all photographic covers, starting to inaugurate a & # 39; Vogue era know it today

These reference dates bring the context to numbers like 126 years and 1,512 Vogue numbers that are banned on social media – in fact there have been over 2,800 covers. But even with these clarifications, the lack of black photographers is an obvious omission.

Cover of Vogue by Edward Steichen (1932)

Cover of Vogue by Edward Steichen (1932)

"Fashion publishers in general tend to have a handful of their favorite and reliable photographers whose work, for whatever reason, seems to move or sell copies," told CNN Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. a telephone interview this week.

"And with the cover it's quite a problem because they want someone who will sell copies of a magazine, they will not use anyone that is remotely sharp or different, they want someone who is reliable and looks similar to other things." Commercial profitability is increasingly important with the September issue, which was positioned as the most important issue of the year, as explained in a 2009 documentary. As Steele noted, it is known for having most of the year's advertisements.

Most of the most sought-after fashion photography was filmed by a small group of photographers. Since he started making covers photographed, Vogue estimates that he has given the honor to about 60 people, many of whom have been reused.

Cover of Vogue with Cindy Crawford, taken by Richard Avedon (1986)

Cover of Vogue with Cindy Crawford, taken by Richard Avedon (1986)

The late Richard Avedon has shot over 140 covers, starting sporadically in the years' 60 and '70 before moving to an almost exclusive period, turning all covers except one from June 1980 to October 1988. Other names reappear: Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, Irving Penn, and Mario Testino among them. These names, in general, also regularly book some of the biggest high fashion advertising campaigns.

Cover of Vogue with Nicole Kidman, filmed by Irving Penn (2004)

Cover of Vogue with Nicole Kidman, filmed by Irving Penn (2004)

"I think about how in general most of these photographers are men," Antwaun Sargent, a critic of art and culture, told the phone. "And as Annie Leibovitz was to be the only one in a sense: this conversation is not just about race, but it extends to gender and things like age, there's a difference in how men and women shoot at the body ".

In the reviewed documents and in the information provided by Condé Nast, there are only a handful of female photographers in the cover story of Vogue. Annie Leibovitz appears to be the only woman to have made a cover of Vogue since Karen Radkai and Frances McLaughlin-Gill over the years & 50 and Toni Frissell, who preceded them in the years & # 39; & # 39; 40. Inez van Lamsweerde has also shot three covers with his partner Vinoodh Matadin since 2017.

Cover of Vogue with Marion Jones, shot by Annie Leibovitz (2001)

Cover of Vogue with Marion Jones, shot by Annie Leibovitz (2001)

To get to this point, Vogue (and the high fashion industry in general) ignored generations of photographers, including some of the black photographers who informed Mitchell's work.

"The way in which [Tyler] he thinks of turning on the black skin, his interrogation on the darkness in general is something that many generations of photographers have looked at, "said Sargent referring to a series of statements by Mitchell, one of the most important, one that says to shoot with an "honest look". "

A costumed showgirl sits on a swing above the audience during an exhibition at the Latin Quarter nightclub, New York, New York, 1958.

A costumed showgirl sits on a swing above the audience during an exhibition at the Latin Quarter nightclub, New York, New York, 1958. Credit: Gordon Parks / The LIFE Picture Collection / The collection of LIFE / Getty Images images

While some names like Gordon Parks – Parks were the first black photographer to shoot for Vogue in the 40s – and Lorna Simpson shot for Vogue in-book there are many others who do not have. Photographers like Carrie Mae Weems, Awol Erizku, Mickalene Thomas, Micaiah Carter and Shaniqwa Jarvis, all of a variety of generations, and all blacks, all with a reputation for commercial shooting, have been largely excluded from American Vogue. Jarvis has filmed for Supreme, Nike and Adidas – while those brands are not in fashion, they talk about commercial profitability. In fact, this summer discussion has arisen that a photo shoot by Juergen Teller for an international Vogue number has imitated the aesthetics of the Thomas brand. Why was not Thomas just hired?

A young high school student photographed by Gordon Parks

A young high school student photographed by Gordon Parks Credit: Gordon Parks

On Instagram, Naomi Campbell spoke about the scarcity of black photographers in high fashion. When the designer Ugo Mozie published, criticizing Vogue for taking so long to throw a black photographer for the cover, the iconic supermodel commented "You're right, it's a shame! In my 32 years I've only been able to work with a fashion photographer, this is why I will continue to promote diversity in my industry ". While his agents have refused to specify if Campbell says he has never worked with a black fashion photographer in Vogue – he has had seven covers – or in the industry in general, with a career as prolific as his own, the statistics are overwhelming.

But why does this change come now?

Before the cover was revealed, Huffington Post published a report that Vogue had given up cover control to Beyoncé. According to the publication, Beyoncé had brought Mitchell to Vogue and as such gave birth to this change in history.
Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue Credit: Tyler Mitchell

"Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnic groups behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and a vision of what the world actually looks like, which is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell" written in his cover story. "If people in powerful positions continue to hire and launch only people who look like them, they look like they, they come from the same neighborhoods where they grew up, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences other than their own models. same art, throw the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose ".

The story of Vogue paints another story. They suggested the name of Mitchell to Beyoncé among a list of other photographers and, understanding the historical significance, Beyoncé selected the young creative. Mitchell even supported this version on his Twitter account, in a tweet now deleted. Regardless of what actually happened, the new move extends the long conversation of fashion on representation, finally behind the goal.
For decades, Vogue had no reason to venture out of the creatives they were using. Stylists and editors continued to use their reference photographers. But in recent years, with America's lack of interest in press reviews, a series of sexual assault allegations have led Condé Nast to distance herself from various photographers and change conversations in identity fashion, the changes were imminent.
Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue Credit: Tyler Mitchell

"[My black photography students] Everyone has said, we do not really see ourselves out there, in industry, in photography. "Kimberly Jenkins, a Parsons lecturer said by telephone." One of them in particular was saying that he wanted to be a photographer because not only did he not see black fashion photographers, but he did not see black women photographers. "

That mentality is the final maturation of a conversation that has been taking place in fashion for over a decade, probably starting from a request to cast more different models on catwalks and in advertising campaigns. Those phone calls were soon met with requests for more black designers and stylists, and even for the hair and makeup teams. But the role of the photographer rarely crept into dialogue.

"It's such a powerful position, you know that we're definitely doing styling now, and we're definitely doing hair and makeup, but to allow a black person, especially a black person, to take control of the goal. and check the look for an important publication? This is a big responsibility, "said Jenkins. "You're driving [the public] in how we're going to look at something. "

And now, even that will be through a "mosaic of perspectives".

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