Vogue’s September issue has always been highly anticipated and valued; over the past ten years (and on the heels of The Devil Wears Prada and The September Issue), its strategic value and popularity have soared even higher, cementing status as the most important edition of the most important fashion magazine in the world.
Against this backdrop, it is significant not only that Beyonce graces the 2018 September cover, but that the photographer is Tyler Mitchell, the first African-American to shoot a Vogue cover in the magazine's 125-year history.
Mitchell (at 23 one of the youngest photographers to shoot for Vogue) sees this opportunity as monumental to the entire community: "[Photography] was known as a rich man's art, so it was mostly for white men who were able to afford all of the chemicals, the films, the cameras that went into it in the very early stages...It's a historical thing that goes into why there just haven't comparatively been as many black fashion photographers as white fashion photographers. But the part that I can't answer is why they haven't been recognized ... the amazing black photographers and black fashion photographers that have been shooting."
According to Mr. Mitchell, emerging technologies are a driving force in democratizing and revolutionizing the field (he has shot extensively on Iphones and markets his work via Instagram): "The beautiful thing about now is that it's no longer somebody that can afford the best camera, but it's about what your eye says."
Mitchell's eye was significantly influenced by time spent in Cuba documenting architecture and the city's emerging skate scene for a book called El Paquete a few years back. Since then, a primary focus of his work has been re-creating Havana's distinct color palette and using it to express how he feels, especially about how black and brown bodies deserve to live in idyllic spaces.
For Beyoncé's shoot, Mitchell researched and referenced imagery surrounding African-Americans and the African diaspora. "Beyoncé really wanted to elevate everything to a new level," he says. "She was really collaborative and adamant on kind of very glamorous fashion mixing with cultural references that kind of feel like the tropics, so I think her and Vogue really liked my use of natural light ... vibrant color, and we really stuck to that."
Thank you Vogue, Tyler Mitchell, and Beyonce for such a beautiful, inspired use of fashion and influence: this may be the most important issue of the most important edition of the most important fashion magazine in the world yet.
1. Get a September issue of Vogue, enjoy pouring over it in the waning days of Summer.
2. Learn more about Mr. Mitchell's journey by listening to a recent interview on National Public Radio.
NOTE: Thank you to Vogue Magazine and National Public Radio for interview excerpts and quotes.