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Beyoncé's Vogue cover is historical, but not iconic

The September issue of Vogue with Beyoncé, photographed by Tyler Mitchell / Vogue

Beyonce's latest Vogue cover was born in the world, and it's beautiful. What is a compliment. It's historic, because it's the first cover of an African-American photographer.

As a fashion picture it is neither surprising nor particularly memorable. After all, huge floral headgear has a moment.

The floral headgear at Noir Autumn 2018 show in Paris. (19659009) There are two versions of the Vogue cover, one in which Beyoncé wears a long ivory Gucci shirt dress and an elaborately floral headpiece by British firm Rebel Rebel wearing a multi-colored, tiered dress by Alexander McQueen. It is the former picture that has by far the most resonance. It is the image that points to emotions.

The picture recalls the aesthetics of Performer's seminal video opus "Lemonade" with its lyrical-visual references to plantations, slavery and Julie Dash's " Daughters of the Dust" the creative effort that went into the picture From the subtleties of dress to the grandeur of the headgear, the photograph itself has a seductively slipping, blurry imperfection. In this era of high definition everything Beyoncé itself is almost blurry. It's as if the viewer sees a picture of her on a 1960's rabbit ear antenna TV. The shadows are hard; the fabric background is crumpled. In many ways, it looks like a test is being shot before the final, shiny, immaculate version is taken. The message in the work of photographer Tyler Mitchell is that the viewer is on set and at the moment.

His technique is powerful. He introduces the viewer to Beyoncé, who feels digital in front of him. But then. What? Beyoncé offers a side look that is part of Mona Lisa and is sometimes proud, distant, confident, regal black woman. It offers the brand Beyoncé. And while society has not yet reached the point where the full humanity of black women is taken for granted, and this full-bodied message of self-worth repeats itself over and over again, it does not negate the meaning of Beyoncé déjà-vu. 19659012] This is stripped Beyoncé. It's an alternative to the glamorous star in the mermaid dress, the New Age feminist in the strict leotard, the common street girl in atleisure-wear and cornrows, and the earth mother in a gilded crown. In the magazine, the singer notes that she wants to be photographed as naturally as possible in order to underline the importance of body acceptance. "I think it's important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies, so I removed the wigs and hair extensions and used little makeup for this shoot."

The suggestion is that the fading of synthetic hair and mascara reveals something true. But no. Nothing is revealed. It's just a narrative of the same story with different costumes and more interesting lighting.

Beyoncé in the September issue of Vogue with a Valentino dress and a hat by Philip Treacy London. (Tyler Mitchell / Vogue)

Mitchell's work is a milestone in the magazine's 126-year history. Vogue also reports that at 23, Mitchell is also one of the youngest photographers to shoot a cover. Mitchell previously worked for the Vogue brand and photographed a story about gun control activists for Teen Vogue earlier this year. The youth-focused, digitally-rooted magazine, especially under former editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth, enjoyed a reputation for inclusive, socially aware sensibility. And Vogue.com, which has a short feature about Mitchell, is much more diverse than the print publication.

Mitchell was one of the few photographers who had proposed the Vogue editorship for Beyoncé's story and recognized the ability to write history chose him. A multitude of stories and social media chatters have been dedicated to the amount of influence and control Beyoncé has been allowed on the fashion story. Her longtime colleague Kwasi Fordjour styled the shoot. But Vogue veteran Ton Goodman served as fashion editor. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Beyoncé and Vogue, agreed by consensus on the images that were eventually released.

Any control of Vogue that extended to her cover theme did not turn out to be in the fashion she modeled. Beyoncé has trademarks that are regularly featured on the pages of the magazine: Gucci, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Philip Treacy. The freshest name is Wales Bonner. Worn by London-born Grace Wales Bonner, the men's label is inspired by African and Afro-Caribbean cultural history. Bonner, who is bicolored, designed a bespoke white trouser suit that Beyoncé wears in long, thick cornrows.

Wearing a gucci dress and bvlgari earrings. (Tyler Mitchell / Vogue)

The pictures show a little equality. In every picture Beyoncé has a similar expression: distant, stoic … a hint of froideur. In more than one posture, she is posing with her legs spread and claiming her place in her own version of Man Spread. Ultimately, their level of control is mostly revealed in their non-interview. It offers a range of statements – "as I said" – Jezebel cultural editor Clover Hope selected on themes from Beyoncé. She believes in opening doors for other colored people. She has matured a lot since her 20s, found slave owners in her lineage, recognized motherhood as a great responsibility, and was really proud of her performance at Coachella. She also had an emergency caesarean section to rescue her twins; the recovery was a challenge; her body is different, and that's fine.

There were countless photos of Beyoncé. Many were stunning, including Mitchell's. But the iconic actress has no iconic portraits – photographs in which independent observers can throw them into a larger cultural context. This is a shame, because photography has the ability to capture the essence of a theme for the historical record as the video does not. A portrait lets the eye linger, get involved and judge. It is the decisive moment. And that's beyond the control of Beyoncé.

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