Tyler Mitchell Builds His Own Utopia at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art

In 2018, photographer Tyler Mitchell was just 23 years old when he made history as the first Black man ever to shoot a Vogue cover—with Beyoncé as the star, no less. His work has since been featured in art and photography exhibitions worldwide: Gagosian in London, International Center of Photography in New York City, and Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, to name a few. His first solo show in Germany, “I Wish This Was Real,” is currently on view at C/O Berlin and runs through September. He’s also shot editorials for nearly every prominent fashion and art mag around (including W). But according to the now 29-year-old Atlanta native, a show at his hometown’s High Museum of Art has always been a “goal of mine, since I started taking art and photography seriously,” Mitchell said via e-mail. Now, that dream has come true, with the exhibition Idyllic Space. On view at the museum through December 1, “Idyllic” is “our attempt to offer a cohesive vision to the community of Atlanta,” Mitchell said. “We tried to show how my overall artistic project, whether fashion, conceptual, or personal work, is rooted in the ethos and aesthetics of the American (and global) south, which raised me.” The photographer came up with the idea for the show almost three years ago, when he was introduced to the museum’s curator of modern and contemporary art, Michael Rooks. After years of conversations, proposals, and ideas, “Idyllic” was born. Mitchell worked closely with Rooks and curator Maria L. Kelly to choose the works of his that evoke the South most effectively. “In essence, it’s an exhibition about the place and the community in which it is staged,” he added.

Mitchell’s works often examine the way Black lives interact with nature and the spaces around them. For “Idyllic Space” that meant “visualizing what a Black utopia looks like or could look like,” Mitchell explained. “I use the word ‘utopia’ as a provocation and a question to audiences. An ‘unreachable perfect’ is inherent in the definition of utopia. I’m more interested in representing temporary moments of bliss, transcendence, and repose. I invite viewers to visualize their own versions of utopia. It becomes a concept shaped in one’s mind’s eye.” Here, a look inside the show.

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Untitled (Paper Planes), 2022

a glorious wedding blessings

A Glorious Wedding (And Blessings to Come), 2021.

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untitled brothers of suburbia o2

Untitled (Brothers of Suburbia), 2021.

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