Finding joy in everyday life, Tyler Mitchell’s photographs “visualize what a black utopia looks or could look like”

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TYLER MITCHELL, Untitled, 2019. | © Tyler Mitchell

Attractive, HAPPY AND TIMELY, the photographs of Tyler mitchell focus on the black experiences that he did not see portrayed in the media when he was growing up. The images Mitchell encountered, mostly on Tumblr, focused on attractive white models at leisure and having fun, having fun. Changing the way black people are traditionally seen and portrayed, his empowering photographs emphasize freedom and hope, pleasure and pleasure, black beauty, style and individuality.

“Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good”, a recently published exhibition catalog, explores the concept of what the photographer calls “a black utopia”. The fully illustrated volume documents Mitchell’s first solo exhibition in the United States. Currently installed at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, the survey, also titled “I Can Make You Feel Good”, presents a selection of his recent photographs, videos and installation work.

“I feel the urgency to visualize black people as free, expressive, effortless and sensitive,” Mitchell said in the exhibit’s introduction. “I aim to visualize what a black utopia looks or could look like. People say utopia is never attainable, but I love the possibility that photography brings. It allows me to dream and make that dream come true.

“I feel the urgency to visualize black people as free, expressive, effortless and sensitive.” – Tyler Mitchell

Mitchell’s images of the dark possibility, the mundane everyday, and outdoor wonders include hoop scenes; a couple resting in a meadow; a close-up of the hands of two young men in white shirt sleeves as one helps the other to button his cuffs; and a beach photo, an almost abstract composition that frames a woman’s sand-covered back and blue swimsuit in dramatic light and shadow. This last image is called “Untitled (Heart). Look closely, the area of ​​sand that covers his back is shaped like a heart.


“Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good,” by Tyler Mitchell, Commissioners Mirjam Kooiman and Isolde Brielmaier, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Deborah Willis (at-Large Curator, ICP), (Prestel, 206 pages). | Posted on August 4, 2020 United Kingdom / August 25, 2020 United States

The title of the artist’s first major monograph (and exhibition) comes from a 1982 song by Shalamar. Contributors to the volume include Deborah Willis, chair of the photography and imaging department at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Hans Ulrich Obrist, director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, conducted an interview with Mitchell. Isolde Brielmaier, general curator of ICP, organized the exhibition and contextualized her work in the fully illustrated catalog.

In an essay titled “A Marvelous Mundane,” Brielmaier described Mitchell’s utopian images. She wrote that they “exude a seemingly simple tranquility and bliss.”

She continued, “Throughout the history of our imagery, this feeling of limitless possibility is all too unique. This is something that is rarely portrayed with blacks as the protagonists. We are so often seen struggling, struggling, suffering, being defeated and surviving. While these states of being reflect aspects of our realities and experiences, Mitchell’s work offers us another necessarily human dimension – a critical perspective in which to envision ourselves. His compositions are thoughtful, complex and multi-layered, yet tightly framed and always intentional. They are made up of very specific signs, symbols and patterns.

“Mitchell’s work offers us another necessarily human dimension, a critical perspective in which to consider. His compositions are thoughtful, complex and multi-layered, yet tightly framed and always intentional. “
– Isolde Brielmaier

Speaking of the intricacy of Mitchell’s imagery, a group photo of shirtless young black men with their backs to the viewer depicts community, trust and frivolity in a natural green space. At the same time, one of his subjects wears a thick chain link collar, evoking references to prison chain gangs and enslaved bodies.

Entitled “Boys of Walthamstow” (2018), the photograph covers the catalog. Set in an overgrown field with a thicket of dense trees nearby, the image is easily associated with the southern United States, but was captured in North East London.

Mitchell recently returned to the UK capital and spoke to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about the new book (see video below). The high-profile conversation covered the arc of his career.


TYLER MITCHELL, “Sosa with Orange Hula Hoop”, 2019. | © Tyler Mitchell

The Brooklyn-based photographer and filmmaker grew up outside of Atlanta in Marietta, Georgia, where he got his start in creating images by filming skateboard videos with his friends. Mitchell received a BFA in Film and Television from NYU’s Tisch School (2017), where Willis was one of his instructors.

A year later, Mitchell gained wide recognition when asked to photograph Beyoncé for the September 2018 cover of American Vogue. Published since 1892, the world’s most prominent fashion magazine had never hired a black photographer to do a cover before. Mitchell made history at 23.

A 2020 Gordon Parks Foundation Fellow, Mitchell spoke with Amanpour about the growth of the suburban middle class. He identifies with freedom and the physical, intellectual, emotional and psychological space represented in his images.

“Living in the suburbs means having space. There is a large front yard. There are hobbies and a lot of things in the pictures I had growing up, ”he told Amanpour. “And that kind of experiences and freedom, I started to understand growing up, was luxury. Having a summer to sort of think about what I wanted to do with my life, these things are freedoms that I am. sort of posing or gesturing or suggesting that all black people should have.

“Having a summer to sort of think about what I wanted to do with my life, these things are freedoms that I’m kind of taking or making or suggesting that all black people should have.” – Tyler Mitchell

Amanpour said she was fascinated by his claim that photographing black people at leisure is radical. “Why is that?” she asked.

Mitchell replied, “Well, it has to do with denied stories. Law? And this idea that visualizing and making images and projecting them and stating that visualizing black people enjoying their lives is important. Law? What is central to my work is that existence in public space for blacks in America has been denied. Psychically in our minds, at any time, this freedom or this enjoyment that we are experiencing or this pleasure could be taken away or taken away. For me, this book is a beacon of that. CT

The exhibition “Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good” debuted last year at Foam, the Amsterdam museum. In New York, it opened at the International Center of Photography (ICP) on January 25, 2020, coinciding with the grand opening of the museum’s new space, and was scheduled until May 18. A few months after the exhibition opened, ICP temporarily closed in March due to COVID-19. The museum currently remains closed and the exhibition has been extended until December 31, 2020.

LEARN MORE about Tyler Mitchell on his website


CNN International Chief Presenter Christiane Amanpour interviews photographer and filmmaker Tyler Mitchell about his new book “I Can Make You Feel Good”. | CNN Video


TYLER MITCHELL, Untitled (Toni) ”, 2019. | © Tyler Mitchell


TYLER MITCHELL, Always Idyllic Space ”, 2019. | © Tyler Mitchell


TYLER MITCHELL, Untitled (Park Frivolity) ”, 2019. | © Tyler Mitchell


TYLER MITCHELL, “The Boys of Walthamstow,” 2018. | © Tyler Mitchell

LEARN MORE Tyler Mitchell has collaborated with fashion, brands, businesses and various publications. A selection of projects include photography by Spike Lee for Office magazine, Toyin Ojih Odutola for iD magazine and student gun reform activists at Majorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., For Teen Vogue; filming of the cover of American Vogue’s Zendaya in June 2019, the April 2020 cover of American Vogue featuring a trio of models from around the world for her issue “Beauty Without Borders” and the cover of Kanye West from GQ in May 2020; photographing the fall / winter 2019 campaigns for fashion brands JW Anderson and Loewe, and directing and photographing the campaign for Copper, the unisex fragrance from Comme des Garçons

BOOKSHELF
Coming soon, “Tyler Mitchell: I Can Make You Feel Good” accompanies his first solo exhibition presented at FOAM in Amsterdam and at the International Center of Photography in New York. Tyler Mitchell is also featured in “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion” and his work is also on the cover of the exhibition catalog. In 2015, Mitchell self-published “El Paquete,” documenting his experience in Cuba. The 200-piece limited edition is now sold out.

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