Pulled From Print Art

At the High Museum, Photographer Tyler Mitchell Returns Home to Atlanta Triumphant

Tyler Mitchell, Vastness, 2022. All images courtesy of the artist.

Tyler Mitchell isn’t keen to be boxed in. At just 29 years old, why would he be? But the artist’s laundry list of accomplishments is hardly proportionate to his age. The Atlanta native was a year out of NYU when he became the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue, with Beyoncé as his subject.

Then there were campaigns for Loewe and Louis Vuitton, a piece acquired by the Smithsonian, a debut monograph that made waves around the world. He’s a go-to in the commercial realm and a rising voice in the fine art sphere, but won’t quite commit to either. “A great photographer simply addresses the concerns of our time in visually compelling ways,” he says, brushing off the pressure to pick a lane. “Photography as a medium almost wants to be everything and everywhere, and in our time, it is!”

This year, the full breadth of Mitchell’s practice will be front and center in his most significant institutional presentation to date. On view at the High Museum through December, “Idyllic Space” brings together over 30 photographic works, evidence of the artist’s forays into fashion, and a new sculptural piece that harkens back to his upbringing in Atlanta. “I aim to expand our perception of the American South,” he says of the work. “In some of the pictures, I’ve depicted Black families in bucolic, sublime, and sometimes unusual landscapes—like sand dunes—to reflect the diverse environments where Black life has flourished.” 

To mark the show’s opening, the artist gave CULTURED a glimpse at his selected works, weaving throughlines among the pieces inhis expansive oeuvre. Investigations of masculinity, American ideals, Black kinship, and domesticity peek through, but when asked precisely what it is that defines a Tyler Mitchell photograph, his answer is hardly complex: “Simply put, the fact that I made it!”


Tyler Mitchell, Untitled (Elder and Sons), 2021.

“This is a staged family portrait. It was first created as a collaborative photographic project with the British-Jamaican fashion designer, Grace Wales Bonner. It mixes these ideas of classical, elegant, and formal dressing with Black identity, as well as Jamaican and Ethiopian identity because of the pins and brooches that adorn the suits. You see the colors of the Rastafarians and Ethiopians who had a deep connection by way of [former emperor of Ethiopia] Haile Selassie in the ’60s."


Tyler Mitchell, Untitled (Brother of Suburbia), 2021.

“As an artist, my overall project is to explore the concepts of the ‘idyllic’ and the ‘pastoral,’ and to question who these ideas have historically been reserved for ... I try to cast subjects that excite me across both my commissioned and personal projects. I look for subjects who possess a poetic quality or a sense of timelessness. This has always drawn me.”


Tyler Mitchell, Untitled (Trust), 2018.

“This photo was an intuitive moment of trust. It plays with the idea of fashion and dress, as one is in a red dress, one in a blue dress, and in both compositions, the clothes and the moment become a metaphor—an interweaving of the body.”


Tyler Mitchell, Ancestors, 2021.

“I became very interested in making work that presents or expands these representations and ideas of Black life. It’s called Ancestors because on the mantelpiece of the fireplace in their front room sit real framed photographs of all of their ancestors. A lot of Black homes across America become this sort of public/private gallery where we situate objects that mean a lot to us. It’s also where we situate photographs that tell a story of who we are and who we want to become.”


Tyler Mitchell, Albany, Georgia, 2021.

"Albany, Georgia is a work I made thinking about home. It explores family existing within the Southern landscape, expanding visions of that landscape and contending with the traditional history of leisure, connectedness. This picture challenges all those ideas, re-situates them both in the American South in Georgia and for Black Southern families.”


Tyler Mitchell, Untitled (The Ceremony), 2020.

“I’m very interested in the presentation and representation of ceremonies in Black culture. This idea of a very young wedding taking place on the steps of a very joyous and grand and classical Brooklyn building essentially takes up this genre of ceremony in Black life as a moment of pride. What you also see in the foreground is a young photographer about to make a formal portrait of the married couple. I’m also interested in photographing what is being photographed, making images of Black people [who are] making images of and for themselves.”

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