Mitchell Tyler’s photo of Beyoncé acquired by Smithsonian

Mitchell Tyler’s photo of Beyoncé acquired by Smithsonian
Tyler Mitchell's photo of Beyoncé featured on Vogue's September 2018 cover. Courtesy Flickr Commons.
Leading lights  -   Artists

You might already be familiar with the cover of Vogue’s September issue from last year… Beyoncé leans against a Grecian-style column clad in a gold, sequined Valentino gown before a gold background. Resting her head in her hands, the singer and icon gazes out at the viewer wearing a stunning gold starburst style headpiece. The photograph was captured by, then 23-year-old, rising artist Tyler Mitchell, who on Tuesday, announced that the photo had been acquired by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Among one of the youngest photographers to have made it on the cover of the renowned fashion magazine, he was the first black photographer (yes, that’s right, it took until 2018) to secure Vogue’s cover spread. Mitchell took to Instagram to announce the acquisition saying:

‘A year ago today we broke the flood gates open. Since then it was important to spend the whole year running through them making sure every piece of the gate was knocked down. And now I’m glad to share this picture is being acquired into the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection.’

The acquisition was confirmed by museum spokeswoman Concetta Duncan but the photo is not going on permanent display, yet, and that when it should go on view is under discussion at the Washington institution. In an August 6th tweet, the National Portrait Gallery said: ‘Our mission is to tell the story of America by portraying the people who shape this nation’s history, development, and culture. We are happy to work with Tyler to acquire his photograph of Beyoncé Knowles into the Portrait Gallery’s collection.’ This was echoed by Duncan who said that since 2013, the museum has worked to make sure that at least 50% of its acquisitions work to diversify the museum’s collection. The photo is the second image of Beyoncé to enter the National Portrait Gallery’s collection but the first artwork of Mitchell’s.

Beyoncé disclosed that she chose to work with Mitchell to emphasize the need to expand our view on society. ‘Until there is a mosaic of perspective coming from different ethnicities behind the lens,’ she said, ‘we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like.’

That is just what Mitchell is working to do. Having grown up in Marietta, Georgia, the artist attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 2017. In 2015, he began a programme for documentary photography spending over a month in Cuba photographing the city’s vibrant skateboard culture and its deteriorating architecture. The 108-page book he then created, El Paquete, turned out to be his big break. He has also worked with Marc Jacobs and rapper Kevin Abstract. In June of this year, Mitchell’s first solo show ‘I Can Make You Feel Good’ wrapped up at Foam in Amsterdam.

‘I depict black people and people of color in a really real and pure way,’ Mitchell told The New York Times in an interview about that exhibition. ‘There is an honest gaze to my photos.’