American photographer Tyler Mitchell is driven by dreams of paradise against the backdrop of history. Since his rise to prominence in the world of fashion, Mitchell has propelled a visual narrative of beauty, style, utopia, and the landscape that expands visions of Black life. C/O Berlin presents Mitchell’s first solo exhibition in Germany, offering new perspectives on his long-standing themes of self-determination and the extraordinary radiance of the everyday, and showing how portraiture can be rooted in the past while evoking imagined futures.

The exhibition covers nearly ten years of Mitchell’s dynamic artistic practice in photography and video, demonstrating the influence of the “New Black Vanguard,” which American writer Antwaun Sargent describes as the proliferation of images by Black photographers who work between the genres of art and fashion. Considered in three thematic sections that follow different motifs, and featuring his newest works printed on fabric and mirrors, the exhibition encapsulates Mitchell’s diverse explorations of portraiture, nature, and social memory. “I hope there is an honest gaze to my photos,” Mitchell says.

In Lives/Liberties, Mitchell’s early influences and immersion in skateboarding culture are reflected in images that pursue a dream of leisure, community, and self-expression amid societal unrest, including an early video, Wish This Was Real (2015), a startling and atmospheric reflection on innocence and political turmoil in contemporary America. In Postcolonial/Pastoral, reveries of paradise are underscored by the complexities of history and social identity, as Mitchell stages elaborate scenes in Georgia and rural New York and invites contemplation through vibrant landscapes and symbolic references. Family/Fraternity celebrates the resilience and agency of Black communities through intimate family portraits and still lifes, portraying the home as a sanctuary.

Central to the exhibition is a display called Altars/Acres, featuring photography and mixed media sculptures by artists whose work deeply resonates with Mitchell’s own creative lineage, such as Garrett Bradley, Rashid Johnson, Baldwin Lee, Gordon Parks, Grace Wales Bonner, and Carrie Mae Weems. This unique intergenerational dialogue sets Mitchell’s photography within a wide spectrum of experimentation, intellectual heritage, and cultural expression.

Tyler Mitchell: Wish This Was Real is curated by Brendan Embser, Senior Editor at Aperture, and Sophia Greiff, Curator and Co-Head of Program at C/O Berlin Foundation, in collaboration with Tyler Mitchell Studios.