Tyler Mitchell

born 1995, Atlanta
lives in Brooklyn

Tyler Mitchell was born and raised in Atlanta and has an abiding interest in belonging, transformation, and the American South. The first Black photographer to have his work on the cover of American Vogue, Mitchell became renowned for his fashion photography in 2018. He recently extended his practice of working with models and staging scenes into fine art photography, creating dreamlike vignettes of leisure and play set in the American South. These latter images are featured in FRONT 2022.

For those aware of history, the land of the South is marked by the trauma suffered by Black people during and after slavery. Mitchell chooses to reimagine lush countryside locations through images of rustic innocence and simple pleasures. In his photographs, grassy hills and cool rivers that once were the sites of brutal, unpaid agricultural labor offer Black people refuge, repose, and rootedness.

In Mitchell’s Edenic imaginings of the South, such as Riverside Scene (2021), Black people belong. They are at ease and have all the time in the world, free to pursue pleasures such as painting, picnicking, stilt walking, and swinging high into the air. Some wade into the river. Others lean back in their lawn chairs and watch the river flow by. There is a softness to many of the photographs that evokes the hazy heat and humidity of a Southern summer day and invokes a dreamy immateriality.

By setting joyful scenes of relaxation, languor, and personal contentment into the Southern landscape, Mitchell uses photography, most often associated with recording fact, to suggest the power of the imagination and the possibility of tangible transformation through it.

The Cleveland Museum of Art

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