A startled youth on a tyre swing: Tyler Mitchell’s best photograph


The American south is a verdant place, full of beautiful and seductive environments, but it’s also threatening, when you think about its racial and political history. Atlanta, where I was born and raised, is one of the greenest cities in the US, basically a city in a forest. I am an only child and had a lot of free time to meditate in these lush spaces. Raised in the suburbs, I went to school in a predominantly white area, which forced me to think about my own Blackness and my relationship to the world around me.

I’ve been making photographs since I was a teenager, primarily oriented around young Black life. My shots are theatrical, staged images, often exploring the psychological relationship young, Black, creative people have with outdoor spaces, specifically in the south.

For this shot, which I called A Glint of Possibility, I thought about a boy on a tyre swing and all the connotations that has, like freeform and “hang time”. The artist and cinematographer Arthur Jafa talks about this in a very different sense. There’s an image that appears in a lot of his exhibitions: I believe it’s a member of the band Bad Brains jumping into the crowd. He has these theories about how Black people hang and jump through space in style, in a beautiful way. So I thought about a boy hanging off a tyre swing, a symbol of fun, leisure, relaxation, all that good stuff. But he’s almost looking at his reflection in the lake in a potentially scary way. Like when you see yourself in a mirror and you’re startled – in a moment of freedom, you’re forced to face yourself.

I chose the title because a glint refers to a refraction of light, a refraction of oneself, and then there’s possibility – all of the moments before and after this moment. A possibility in a boy’s life, to set oneself free, to fly, or to hang there freely – all of those things come to mind with this picture.

My photography is very collaborative. I’m almost like a director. I have an idea or I write a sort of script. I talk to a producer friend about what areas are nearest that could look like what I’m hoping to bring alive. For this shot, I knew about a place upstate – in Cold Spring, New York – and there we found this beautiful lake and patch of forest that really spoke to me.

I like to seek out other young creative people. The boy in the tyre is actually a photographer I found through a friend. I try to make sure my protagonists understand what I’m trying to do. Luckily, he did and was very willing.

I’ve spent time in London, several months on and off. I’ve been in love there, made a lot of work there. I love the city. I find it intriguing that British culture, much like the American south, is fascinated with manners and formalities. So when I go to Britain, I feel right at home.

About the author

Marta Lopez

I am a content writer and I write articles on sports, news, business etc.

By Marta Lopez


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