The Photograph Five

Tyler Mitchell

May 1, 2024

On June 21, Atlanta native Tyler Mitchell’s exhibition Idyllic Space opens at the High Museum of Art. The show includes his fashion and fine-art photographs, as well as his photo sculptures. Mitchell, who rose to prominence when he became the first Black artist to photograph the cover of Vogue, shooting Beyonce for the September 2018 issue, has since famously created photographic and video work of young Black people relaxing, picnicking, enjoying leisure time – images of beautiful young Black men and women at play and rest. Among the works on view at the High Museum will be a photo-sculptural work featuring more than 20 Atlanta-area families who are members of Jack and Jill of America, an organization Mitchell participated in as a boy.

Tyler Mitchell answered five questions from photograph.

Carrie Mae Weems, May Flowers, 2002. © Carrie Mae Weems. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin

Name a photograph that brings you joy.

Right now I’ll say May Flowers by Carrie Mae Weems. Beyond it currently being the month of May and my focus being on spring blooming, I love this transcendent work by Carrie Mae Weems, which both makes reference to classical ideas of leisure in history painting as well as projects a vision into the world of beautiful Black girlhood.

Cover of Mark Cohen: Dark Knees (ROSEGALLERY, 2013). Courtesy Mark Cohen and ROSEGALLERY
Viviane Sassen, cover of Hot Mirror (Prestel, 2018)

Favorite photo book.

Too many to name. But right now I’ll say it’s a tie between Hot Mirror by Vivianne Sassen and Dark Knees by Mark Cohen, both of which I’m lucky to have in my collection.

James Van Der Zee, Tea Time at Madam CJ Walker’s Beauty Salon, 1929. © James Van Der Zee Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Included in The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism.

The last exhibition you saw.

The Harlem Renaissance show [The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism] by Denise Murrell at the Met [through July 28] Truly incredible.

Your favorite work of art that’s not a photograph.

You can’t ask me to pick a favorite. I’ll name three: America by Hugh Hayden, Waterfall by Robert Gober, and Souvenir by Kerry James Marshall.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Anders Stretching On The Carpet, 2022. Courtesy David Zwirner, Galerie Buchholz, and Maureen Paley

Name a photographer who has influenced you.

Again I’ll name three. James Van Der Zee, Wolfgang Tillmans, Shoji Ueda.