The young “image-makers” are known for their distinct aesthetics that have been heavily influenced by their hometowns, animated movies, surrealist art work, and their own dreams. In a recent phone conversation for Vogue magazine, the Tylers discussed their creative outputs and how they aim to create fantastic worlds that are also based in reality. It’s an approach that is highlighted in Mitchell’s new solo exhibitions—“Dreaming in Real Time” and “I Can Make You Feel Good”—at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City.
Mitchell, an Atlanta native, said he had spent the last three years traveling for his fashion photography gigs, but was inspired to “return home” and do his own version of a “Southern project.” The images centered around Black people in pastoral, outdoor landscapes like the sand dunes, green fields, and a lake.
“I don’t know if this applies for you or if you have any thoughts on this, but one other thing this body of work deals with is people’s reclamation of landscape,” Mitchell said. “In the history of landscape photographers, it’s been a lot of white folks in those types of pictures—I just hadn’t seen a lot of folks from Atlanta who looked like me. But I also, in a couple pictures, drew red lines through them, sort of referencing the history of the South and divisions that were made by people. Redlining was basically a systemic way to divide people and keep them from mobility, so I think about this idea of how people are mobile now, versus how Black people have been prevented from being mobile in the past.”
Mitchell compared his photos to the idea of Okaga, California, a fictional town Tyler, the Creator references throughout his work.
“I sort of feel like if there is any connection to these photos or this show, it is that for you; Okaga is a mythic place that is based on a collection of memories,” he said. “These photos are sort of a mythic version of Georgia for me. The people in them are not in a real space—I staged them, I set it up, but the moments are real all the same.”
Tyler, the Creator agreed, explaining the images could inspire Black kids to pursue a life of adventure.
“That’s [what] Call Me If You Get Lost is about. It’s: When you’re really out there in the world and you’re on your adventure, call me, because I’ma be out there doing my thing,” the rapper said. “And that’s when we link. That means we’re on the same wavelength; we got the same antennas. When I see your photos and your work, I’m like, Oh, he gets it. And again, I think you and I share the same idea of romance, of what that is. I remember watching Mariah Carey’s ‘Always Be My Baby’ video—they’re on that tire swing and they just jump in the lake… That’s my idea of romance as a grown adult. And I think it’s not an aesthetic, but it’s a world of stuff that’s like that—like the picnics that we still find romantic … It’s just a beautiful, romantic thing that we love the idea of. I see it in your work. It’s in my work. I think that that’s super ill to push.”
You can read the Tyler’s full conversation at Vogue’s website. Mitchell’s “Dreaming in Real Time” exhibit will be at 513 West 20th St., and “I Can Make You Feel Good” at 524 West 24th St. Both shows will run through Oct. 30.