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I Can Make You Feel Good

Last Thursday, I visited Foam for the opening premiere of the 24-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell ’s first solo exhibition I Can Make You Feel Good. Mitchell was the first black African-American to shoot the cover of Vogue, and one of the youngest photographers to feature. In the September Issue 2018, he had the privilege to work with not only Vogue but also singer-songwriter Beyonce as the feature.

“I like pretty things, I’m drawn to color and I like to look at the world from a positive perspective” — Tyler Mitchell

Tyler Mitchell studied at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and received his B.F.A in Film and Television from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He was born and raised in Atlanta, GA where he started filming skate videos with friends and taking photographs of music, fashion, and youth culture. His large portfolio of clients now include; American Vogue, British Vogue, Teen Vogue, i-D Magazine, Dazed, Document Journal, Office Magazine, Candy Magazine and The FADER.

“On Tumblr, I used to see almost only photos of sensual, young, attractive, white models that ran around and had fun. But never from black people. ” Tyler Mitchell

Tyler Mitchell celebrates black individuals throughout his portfolio, showing purely the way they are; with all elements of their personality with nothing to hide and absolutely everything to celebrate. Mitchell describes to I-D Magazine that one of his initial motivations for his interest in photography and film being because of Tumblr, showing white models young and attractive but, no black models. He wanted to celebrate black skin in the same freely, expressive way as white people are celebrated. Not only does Tyler find his motivation via the internet he also uses social media platforms (predominantly Instagram and Twitter) to scout out his models. I find it interesting how the modern/ digital age has changed the way artists, photographers and creatives use the internet as a tool for inspiration, motivation and self-promotion.

“I find it important that I have found them on the internet, that they resemble me, and that they usually resemble the young people with whom my photos resonate. That cycle, that back and forth movement to cast people in which I see a part of myself, is what makes it special. ” Tyler Mitchell

I was welcomed to Tylers Mitchell’s first solo exhibition by a lively atmosphere full of fashion energetics with a fitting vibe, alongside his work. I squeezed through the crowds to reach the first room and was struck by a corridor of sensitive yet proud black individuals framed and mounted on white-washed walls. I was drawn to look closer to each image as the individuals emerge; free, eloquent, noble and sensitive all at once. Mitchell shows truth and honesty but with experimentation. His work is pure, I felt comfort in the conversation between the individual and the camera.

I continued into the main room where he displays a variety of images all working together to declare his black utopia using pastel colours throughout parks, gardens and studio backdrops. I was intrigued by the use of colour throughout Mitchell’s work; after leaving the exhibition I discovered that his interested in colour was mostly profound during his time spent in Cuba, discovering the reasoning behind the city’s colourful buildings.

“The suburbs and the outdoors, in which I grew up in Georgia, and my time spent in Cuba, are two experiences that have helped me see a world outdoors for black people. I lived in Havana for a month, and I learned that it’s actually not intentional that the city is thoroughly painted in pastel colors. Because of the poverty in the country, people weren’t able to afford the most in-demand paint — white, black and navy — and hence they bought all these strange purples, pinks and turquoises, and that’s why Cuba looks the way it looks today. That’s a language I’m interested in, and so I guess this is how that palette gradually permeated all my work, both personal and commissioned.” Tyler Mitchell

I Can Make You Feel Good — Tyler Mitchell

Mitchell also had two film premieres showing at Foam ‘Idyllic Space’ and ‘Chasing Pink, Found Red’. He displayed these in a small dark room on three screens mounted proudly in the centre hoping to create an immersive experience. Here the audience moved around the three screens and experienced glimpses of the two works in various angles. I was lured into a hypnotic trance by ‘Chasing Pink, Found Red’… I could not look away. It focused around a group of Mitchell’s friends in Central Park having a picnic, as the camera pans near them a voice-over explains various true stories of when black people were made to feel inadequate and experienced prejudice due to the colour of their skin. To gather these stories he reached out to friends, family and across social media followers to send him voice notes of their experiences.

“I asked my followers and people in my area from the African diaspora to send a voice memo describing moments in which they were reminded of their skin color. The little traumas from everyday life. ” — Tyler Mitchell

Tyler Mitchell wasn’t someone I knew much about prior to the exhibition after I was introduced to his expressive and experimental work, I am intrigued to learn more about the way he combines his different influences. I highly recommend going to see Tyler Mitchell’s exhibition — his work is being exhibited until 5 June at Foam.

I Can Make You Feel Good — Tyler Mitchell

This is my last blog post for VBAT as I will be leaving at the end of this month. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone at VBAT for the experience I have gathered not only within the commercial and retail industries from a design perspective but, also in moving to a new city and embracing a different culture.

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