Tyler Mitchell talks about his book “I Can Make You Feel Good”

Tyler Mitchell does not want his debut volume I Can Make You Feel Good (Prestel) remains a nice unused item on your coffee table. Instead, he wants it to be “a beacon of hope for how we hope the lives of the black people will look in the future“. Consisting of 206 pages, it takes us on a journey through fields of grass where a group of sun-kissed black men and women lie serenely on picnic blankets, and across streets where young men in sky-blue shirts play with the hula hoop. Tyler Mitchell’s photography eternally synthesizes black bodies as a complex subject, eliminating the idea of ​​an experience Black monolithic. At the moment, his work represents a powerful investigation, which wants to become the proposal of a black utopia.

Untitled (Boys of Walthamstow), 2018

© Photography Tyler Mitchell

With an identity that defines him among Millennials and in the Tumblr era, the 25-year-old photographer from Atlanta already has numerous milestones to his credit. Thanks to his background as a director, as a teenager, Mitchell found success in creating videos home made skate theme and then produce a book, in 2015, entitled El Paquete, which represented the skate scene in Havana, Cuba.

Self Portrait, 2019

© Photography Tyler Mitchell

In 2018, campaigns with innovative images arrive for brands such as Comme des Garçons and JW Anderson. An exceptional talent of his generation capable of ferrying fiction into uncharted territory, Mitchell made history by photographing Beyoncé for the September 2018 cover of FashionTrends America – the first black creative to win the commission in the magazine’s 128-year history – creating an image that is now on display in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Untitled (Sosa with Orange Hula Hoop), 2019

© Photography Tyler Mitchell

A splendid exchange on contemplative art, I Can Make You Feel Good speaks for itself even though Mitchell states that he would use the words “multifaceted, intimate, autonomous and immersive to describe it”. Using the title of his first monographic of 2019, set up at the Fotografiemuseum in Amsterdam, the volume presents images taken between 2016 and 2019. It is a brazen immersion in various states and conditions – outdoors, in intimacy and on the move – of the black body in all its glory, while at the same time using multi-level symbolism to emphasize adversity. faced by the community Black an American inherently plagued by white supremacy and systemic and covert racism.

Below, the well-known astro of photography shares the story behind it I Can Make You Feel Good and talks about the importance of representation in the fashion world.

I Can Make You Feel Good illustrates the joy of the black people in a free and uncontrolled way. What are your earliest memories related to utopia Black?

“I’m from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, which means my childhood was filled with nature and lush green spaces. I am an only child, with a thoughtful and thoughtful character, and during the summers at the end of school, I was happy to go to the summer camp where to cheer me up were simple and mundane pleasures, if you will, like lying on the grass with friends, things we tend to take for granted right now ”.

Untitled (Park Frivolity), 2019

© Photography Tyler Mitchell

The title of the volume is the same as your 2019 debut monographic exhibition. What prompted you to create the book?

“The exhibition is a portion of ideas and images that animate a physical space while the volume represents my work in its entirety and a whole period of my photography. As a person who loves to collect photo book, I think they are the best way for a photographer to be known and appreciated. It has to do with the manual aspect of creation and the exhaustive nature of the book; in this case, in particular, I chose to weave films, photography, personal and commissioned works in a fluid way. As the viewer immerses himself in the sequences, any hierarchy between each of these areas disappears for me, and I find that to be a wonderful thing ”.

‘Boys of Walthamstow’ is the cover image of the volume. What are your fondest memories related to this photographic set?

“Without thinking too much, the cover image was meant to be a beautiful representation of the black body – I love its simplicity. In 2018, I was in London and I wanted to shoot a personal project with the boys in a swamp, which was free from all constraints and constraints. I contacted mine casting director Holly Cullen who found me a bunch of fabulous guys. We took the images at the Walthamstow Marshes in East London and I remember thinking that image was particularly magical.

“Just before taking that photo, I told them to play catchy, so the image is the next moment when they chase each other, shirtless, running around and enjoying the physical proximity but there are also heavy historical references woven like the “chain gang “ – the teams of prisoners chained and used as labor in the most strenuous jobs, often a pure form of punishment: a system used mainly in the Southern States.

The image is also pervaded by an atmosphere of positivity that I love very much. All the characters portrayed in the volume are friends and have a role in my private life ”.

Still from Idyllic Space, 2019

© Photography Tyler Mitchell

What is the most important aspect for you in the act of photographing a black body?

“All the images were shot collaborating directly with the subjects. In the 1990s, many photographers, especially in the fashion industry, were almost dictatorial towards models and models. My approach is more open, I prefer conversation with my subjects. This is how I am of course – curious, cooperative and prone to awe. They are not the beginning and the end of something but just a wheel of a gear. The spectator is more important than any of us ”.

Photographer Deborah Willis first noticed you when you were still a student at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In her essay included in the volume, she writes: “I was fascinated by Tyler’s work as I saw how dedicated he was to understanding images and then modifying the existing visual narrative about being black, male, young and creative.” How do you think your work has transformed since then?

“I experienced an evolution from being a kid making skateboarding videos with a perspective that is essentially focused on the sport and style aspect. I began to consider all the autobiographical ideas about Blackness and the identity of black men and women in my community. In terms of language, there are probably evolutions in the images that simply come from my subconscious. People like Deborah have watched me grow up and perhaps their writings demonstrate just that in a certain sense ”.

What would you like the viewer to feel in observing your images?

“What I want has almost nothing to do with the viewer and the volume itself. It has to do with what the public, and the viewer in general, receives from the book and what it brings into it. I hope that in the experience of using the volume there is an appreciation of the multitude of images in which the black body is lying in placid moments of contemplation but also in movement – in its most active state – and of how all these states can be liberating. “.

I Can Make You Feel Good / Untitled (Toni), 2009

© Photography Tyler Mitchell

Representation in fashion continues to be a very topical issue. How can the industry address inclusivity in front of and behind the camera lens?

“It’s largely up to fashion to figure out how to do it. It is not so much the responsibility of black creatives to teach and guide people through this process. Inclusiveness means truly reflecting on what the world is like when you step outside the fashion bubble, which is not representative of what the real world is like. This will create a more diverse and interesting dialogue. It is not about shouting from the rooftops that you are more inclusive but about making it a fact because that is what you truly want to be ”.

“For years, black artists have asked: ‘Why is my work on my life, my experiences and the lives of the people around me not considered part of the canon of historical art and photography? ‘And that question will continue to be asked. We need to do a huge amount of pressure so that more people Black is Brown appear in front of the camera lens. It seems to me that we are reaching the apex of this type of conversation and I hope it will continue ”.

What advice would you give to aspiring young black photographers?

“Don’t be afraid to say No. We are often told that opportunities only come knocking once, like ‘Accept now and don’t ask questions.’ This is how many black artists end up signing low-value contracts. The white supremacist system continues to exist due to contractual terms that do not protect artists. Ask thousands of questions and have the courage not to accept. I know it’s tough because sometimes there are opportunities that we feel we need but the reality is that we don’t need anything that takes advantage of our experiences and is of no benefit to us. “

I Can Make You Feel Good

© Photography Tyler Mitchell / Prestel

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