Tyler Mitchell is making history, with a little help from Beyoncé | Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

The black photographer’s shoot for Vogue is a milestone that should have been passed years ago

That black people in America – and the UK – are still, in 2018, on their “firsts” when it comes to achievements stuns me. Tyler Mitchell, a photographer and film-maker, is making history by becoming the first black photographer to land an American Vogue cover. He has reportedly been signed to shoot Beyoncé for the September issue.

Mitchell’s work is unashamedly black; he has depicted a utopia where black men could be as carefree as their white suburban counterparts, subverting a normally violent narrative by having them hold water pistols, while wearing a mixture of bright, soft colours and pearls. In a shoot with musician Kelsey Lu for the magazine Nii Journal, he pondered refugee narratives and wrapped her in a glistening gold foil cape, protecting a child in her arms.

I first met Mitchell on a Dazed and Confused magazine shoot with some of London’s finest black creatives, where he exuded warmth. He’d never been to London and was keen to find common connections both between me, his interviewer, and the rest of the black collective who were being shot on that bright afternoon last summer by black British photographer Campbell Addy. During the interview, Mitchell told me that he accidentally fell into photography and filming when he was 15 through skateboarding.

I was excited to learn that he had been given the opportunity to work with Beyoncé but was frustrated at the indirect way it came about, needing a megastar intervention.

“The reason a 23-year-old black photographer is photographing Beyoncé for the cover of Vogue is because Beyoncé used her power and influence to get him that assignment,” a source close to Vogue told HuffPost’s Yashar Ali, who broke the story. Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief and artistic director, having failed to hire a single black photographer to shoot a cover in her 30-year tenure, has given unprecedented control to the singer for the flagship issue.

The publication doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to representing black people on the cover. Although new editor-in-chief Edward Enninful is swiftly rectifying the problem in the UK, British Vogue once went over 12 years, from 2002 until 2015, without a black person gracing its cover. As Mitchell once said: “We need to use our art to wake people up right now.” If he stays true to that ideology, his Beyoncé cover should be the beginning of the end for the era of firsts.

No sir, that’s not my baby. No sir, I don’t mean maybe

Naomi Campbell ‘quickly deleted Skepta from all of her social media pages’.
Naomi Campbell ‘quickly deleted Skepta from all of her social media pages’. Photograph: Mark SchŠfer/Courtesy of STXfilms

Call me a “Skeptic”, but as soon as I saw model Naomi Campbell and grime star Skepta’s raunchy GQ magazine shoot plastered all over our computer screens in March, I knew that their nascent relationship was doomed to go down in painfully poorly written “Celebrity Relationships That Didn’t Last” articles for the next decade.

But in what shall now be known as the sonogram scandal, it looks like their narrative of black royalty has come to a close with a baby-size bang. On Tuesday, Skepta posted a picture of a sonogram on his Instagram titled “Baby Adenuga”, with a caption of a red rose. In June, he also tweeted the pregnant woman emoji. The posts combined led to fervent pregnancy speculations centring on Campbell. Could it be that the 48-year-old, who has spoken about wanting children, was the mother of baby Adenuga?

Seemingly in response, Campbell has quickly deleted Skepta from all of her social media pages and posted a picture to her Instagram of her blooming from the prow of some kind of yacht, flat-bellied and bikini-bedecked and without a nappy or dummy in sight. The pregnancy rumours were immediately quelled, but in this Love Island era of fame, it seems we’re desperate to see successful couples work out, because it gives us hope for our own tepid love lives and PRs know it.

To me, however, it seems possible that Skepta was not dating Campbell at all and has (quite probably) got another woman pregnant. In posting the cryptic picture, is he trying to keep the narrative alive for his own fame? Ah, the intricacies of celebrity (non-)coupling.

Not the Apple of her father’s eye

Lisa Brennan-Jobs: having the last laugh?
Lisa Brennan-Jobs: having the last laugh? Photograph: infusny-160/Elder Ordonez/INFphoto.com

‘You smell like a toilet,” is what Lisa Brennan-Jobs claims she was told by her Apple billionaire father on his deathbed. After putting on some rose-scented facial mist that had an unpleasant after-smell: “[I] no longer smelled sharp like roses, but fetid and stinky like a swamp, although I didn’t realise it at the time,” she explains in her forthcoming memoir, Small Fry. Assuming her recollection of Jobs’s words is sound, one might think that he was doing her a hilarious kindness by informing her of the fact. But in her book, 40-year-old Brennan-Jobs sets out the archetypal absent father narrative, vastly complicated by money and, she maintains, her father’s biting tongue.

Her mother sued Jobs for child support payments, while he continued to claim publicly that Brennan-Jobs was not his child. That Apple became the first company to be valued at $1 trillion last week seems a fitting backdrop to the apparent revelation that Jobs was as tight-fisted with his closest family as he was with his company money. But although Brennan-Jobs claims that her father once told her: “You’re getting nothing”, it seems likely she’ll be having the last laugh with a memoir that’s destined to be a bestseller.


Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

The GuardianTramp

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