The cover of the September issue of Vogue U.S featuring Beyoncé photographed by Tyler Mitchell continues to spark reactions around the world. This is the comment we received from Anna Winand, a wonderful lady who was the right and left arm of Cornell Capa!
“In New York, the long-awaited September issue of Vogue is on the stands. The cover photograph of Beyoncé is the first by a black photographer, 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, chosen by Beyoncé. It was agreed beforehand that the photo would not be altered once submitted for publication; an agreement made with Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor.
To specify the photo was taken by a black photographer is a long time in the coming, apparently. Gordon Parks was hired by Alexander Liberman, a forerunner to Wintour, in 1948. Six months after that hire Parks’s photographs of that winter’s “finest gowns” was published in Vogue.
In an accompanying personal essay in this issue of Vogue Beyoncé writes of researching her ancestry, discovering that she comes from a slave owner who fell in love with a slave and married her. One of the results of that union must be the beautiful golden tone of her skin.
Now for the photograph. It shows Beyoncé in a serene calm pose in a dress with a covered modest neckline, showing a bit of a shapely thigh and knees, her white dress an expression of purity and chastity. It is playful and serious, it shows natural beauty (no heavy makeup by Beyoncé’s choice).
This photograph is clearly a collaboration between sitter and photographer. There is no grand-standing. What there is, is great beauty and great dignity.
Also in her essay Beyoncé wrote: “If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose.”
Thank you Beyoncé, Tyler Mitchell, Anna Wintour, and of course Vogue for taking some of us, or most of us, beyond our neighborhoods. It takes a village to make art. ”