Tyler Mitchell: Analogue Exposure
Tyler Mitchell is the 20-year-old photographer behind our June cover with RnB auteur Abra. Hailing from Atlanta but based in New York, he has shot campaigns for streetwear and fashion brands such as Lucid FC, Kakáslok and Gallery 909, directed music videos for artists like Kevin Abstract and Brockhampton, and self-published a book of vivid photographs from a month long trip to Cuba.
Tyler got into photography through skateboarding and began shooting on a DSLR camera. Gradually realising that his work looked the same as all his peers, he resolved to set himself apart by looking at hundreds of photographs every day, initially on sites like Tumblr and Instagram, before adopting his current regime of going to a photography bookstore in New York every day and flipping through photo books for hours.
The work paid off. Filled with pastel shades, warm tones and youthful vitality, Tyler’s photos evoke a sense of utopia and freedom that is often missing from daily life. Colour, composition and form are all given equal weight to the subjects themselves, elevating fashion shoots and celebrity snaps to a level that is found more often on gallery walls than Instagram pages.
Speaking to Tyler it becomes clear that behind his credentials is a work ethic and dedication to his craft that exceeds his years. Now shooting in analogue film and valuing quality over quantity, Tyler has previously been vocal about the negative effects of hyper-connected internet culture on the current state of photography and the need for artists to slow down and figure out their own paths instead of getting swallowed up by the prevailing cultures of our times.
You shot our recent cover with ABRA and you directed the video for her track Come 4 Me – how did you two meet and start working together?
Honestly I found her music and cold emailed her manager. She immediately caught my ear because as a black girl making music, it’s easy to get tied down to R&B or Beyoncé as a genre to be compared to, but she was fully doing her own thing. And we’re both from Atlanta.
You’ve described yourself as a member of the post-DSLR generation – what does that mean to you?
Now I feel like I’m post-thumbnail culture. A year back or so I put in my Instagram bio ‘post-DSLR’, thinking about how I had moved on to shooting film and finding more authentic ways of creating. Now I’m post-making images that are designed to look good as thumbnails on an Instagram ‘Explore’ page. I’m getting much more detailed about my world than that. I’m no longer about the thumbnail of a picture being the thing that draws you in. I expect people who care about my work to care about my work and not a gimmick.
Your output is a mixture of fashion and street photography, music videos and experimental work – is there an area you prefer working in?
I don’t have a preference. I look at all these outlets of expression as ways I fill my artistic void and also I look at them as all the same. There’s no preferred area. Honestly film and photo are the same to me. That’s like choosing children.
What do you look for in a portrait?
Goofiness but also full of honesty and deep thought in the expression. I want portraits that look like I’ve placed my imprint on the subject and like the models are extensions of me.
You’ve talked about feeling disenchanted with the oversaturated, instant gratification side of visual culture that the internet has brought about – what’s the remedy for this?
Now we’re just living in the over-saturation. So I’m no longer worried about it, but I’m coming up with ideas around it. Our memories are getting physically worse. As we expose ourself to more and new information on the web, our brain creates new “file cabinets” for every new compartment of information you’re learning and it deletes and forgets old ones you push out.
Do you have any upcoming projects in the works?
Tons honestly. I decided this was my year and so far it has been. I’ve been living all my dreams and none of it feels like work.