Just when you think we’re making huge progress towards equality, a stark reminder of how far we’ve yet to go emerges. Despite 126 years of publication at a rate of 12 issues per year, not one Vogue cover has been shot by a black photographer. If the rumors are true, Beyonce could be about to change that.
It’s quite remarkable to hear that such a modern, fashion-forward publication that prides itself on being one step ahead is, in fact, light years behind. While creatives should always be selected on merit rather than the mere principle of a magazine needing to appear diverse, I find it difficult to grasp quite how, in over 1,000 issues, not one cover has been the work of an African-American photographer.
Perhaps even more staggering is the claim that the only reason this statistic is changing in 2018 can’t be attributed to the editorial staff at Conde Nast. According to the Guardian, the rumored photographer to be shooting the prestigious September issue’s cover is Tyler Mitchell, a black photographer hand-picked by Beyonce Knowles, who is due to grace said cover. A long-time advocate for black talent, Knowles allegedly only agreed to participate in the feature were she given full creative control, including the creative team working on it.
Editor Anna Wintour is notoriously controlling, opting to keep most productions within a small circle of creatives. The photographers she usually allocates cover shoots to are considerably more established than Mitchell. It’s a huge gig for him, but one that must feel bittersweet. Regardless of your opinion of the magazine itself, to shoot for Vogue is a great honor, although doing so knowing the powers behind it seem to have a disregard for people of color must surely taint the experience. That Wintour is signing over all creative control to Beyonce is unusual, but then again, maybe she doesn’t care, since she’s rumored to be leaving the publication.
While Mitchell’s cover will undoubtedly be something to celebrate upon its reveal, there are still many questions that need to be answered. Why has it taken so long for a black photographer to be given this opportunity? Why did it require someone of Beyonce’s prestige for this to happen? And most importantly, will this be the wake-up call that Vogue so desperately needs?
Shame on you, Conde Nast.
Lead image credit: Kristopher Harris via Flickr Creative Commons.