Did Vogue get it wrong? Of course they did. In other words, it’s Tuesday.

Haha Catherine!

UmmLila - you’re right about that, the magazines and pandemic.

I agree with Shevia and also with the WaPo article. Madam Vice President deserved better but also Vogue can't diminish her greatness.

Ha, Catherine!

I'm not crazy about either photo. For me, a better image of Kamala Harris in the video of her white suit, her incredible vitality and energy. As others have said, she is often depicted in motion and I think it's both suitable metaphorically and also for her, personally -- for her personal style. It's as if the Vogue team didn't really try (beyond the obvious -- Cons) to express any of that, unless a sloppy backdrop is their attempt?

I personally like the photo of her in the blue suit. She looks authoritative and dare I say feminine at the same time. The photo of her in her signature Converse I don’t like because she seems unsure of her self - she doesn’t strike me as a women who is ever unsure of her self and surely that isn’t image that best says - “I’m going to be the first women VP of the the United States”.

Even though this is a fashion blog - I am encouraged that generally the comments aren’t about what she is wearing but center more on criticisms about Vogue’s decisions regarding lighting, background, choice of photo etc. That shows great progress for women leaders - IMHO.

I doubt Vogue gives up editorial say over what photo is used easily. But given her stature - her team blundered not have a voice on what images were used.

I like both photos. The sneakers photo is how she campaigned. The other one looks very professional. I don’t see a problem.

I agree with what Shevia said. Ha Catherine!

I’ll defer to others, like Janet, for an assessment as to the quality of the photography because I’m certainly not the expert here, but I can’t help but think Vogue’s decision to use Tyler Mitchell as the photographer makes its editorial decision to use the black suit image rather predictable.

To my mind Tyler Mitchell’s images are interesting because his choices are NOT what I expect to see in a portrait: he shoots in natural light with a saturated, candy-colored palette; he frequently uses a draped fabric background (often in a laundry-line look) as a metaphor to connect his non-white subjects to the context of a historical social reality; and, finally, he chooses to present blackness using imagery that’s common to white people but subtly questions our response when non-white subjects employ clothing in an equivalent way. In Mitchell’s own words:

This stuff I’m photographing is real, but it’s also a fantasy...These are behaviors we’ve been self-policing ourselves from. For instance, when I visited my best friend who went to Hampton, a historically black college — I almost went to Howard myself — I visited him on the weekend and the rules were like, no hats indoors, you have to wear a belt at all times, when you’re in certain areas you have to wear a collared shirt. I was like, Are you serious? These are rules that we’ve put in place on ourselves so that we seem presentable according to Western ideas of what presentable looks like. If we don’t present that way, we get killed. That’s what I mean when I say fantasy.

I suspect the editorial choice of Tyler Mitchell was approved by Harris’ team so, while the black suit image might not have been the one her team preferred, the overall image that would be projected by a Mitchell Vogue cover was entirely predictable. A different photographer would have provided a much different image—perhaps more in line with our conventional expectations? But maybe that’s the point the editorial staff at Vogue wanted to drive home?

@ Gaylene - thank you for your contribution to the discourse! So much to think about...

Gaylene, I’m not familiar with this photographer, will take your word that they are known for casual images. That pushes the concern about the racism involved in refusing /choosing not to present a Black woman in a traditional “power” portrait back one step, but I don’t see how it changes the basic issue that Black people are frequently not accorded the same respect we would assume based on how white people in similar positions are treated.

Did Vogue get it wrong? Yes. I hope the photographer does not get blamed. Some editor most probably decided how the photos were to be used.

@FashIntern. Actually, I’m not sure “casual” is the word I’d use for Mitchell’s images—but I think I’d definitely put him in the “crafted political statement” camp. And, I think, as a politically-inclined Black photographer, your point is exactly the one the one that Mitchell is trying to make to a typical “white” Vogue audience.

The Washington Post article that Shevia linked to in her response probably better reflects my position that, personally, I’d have loved a more conventional “WOW” approach to this amazing woman and her historic achievement. That’s why I think it’s interesting Mitchell was chosen to do the cover shoot. I imagine there would be no shortage of well-known photographers who would shoot a more conventionally powerful image of the first Black female VP for a Vogue cover but both parties did obviously agree on Mitchell.

That’s interesting about the photographer on the job. The black suit is the tweedy jacket, black pants and cons? Do I think I’d feel differently about the cover if Kamala were white in that outfit? Hmm. Have to think about it. I don’t hate that cover and I rather like her take on political dress. Do I feel a need for leaders in suits? That’s an interesting question. I may be starting to feel this notion of showing respect through clothing is... problematic...

Just glad Mitchell didn’t use his trademark “white sheet on a laundry line” image as a background—or pose Ms. Harris on a stool! *grimace*

But, I’ll admit, as a 70+ white female, I do think it’s interesting to explore my instinctive reactions to seeing a powerful Black woman at a historic moment wearing a brown tweedy jacket and Cons. Maybe Mitchell is on to something that white privilege is expressed in my preference that Ms. Harris wear a traditional “white woman” power outfit—perhaps a black skirted suit with a white shirt and pearls?—haloed by a sunlit backdrop as she sits behind a impressive mahogany desk with a flag draped behind her? Is Ms. Harris being disrespected because she isn’t packaged in my notions of how she ought to be shown? Is the “black suit/white shirt” image being subverted by a unmatched pant suit, cotton T-shirt, and Cons. I suspect it’s the latter...and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s exactly the message I’m supposed to get.

This has really taken an interesting turn. Now I'm wondering if Harris picked out those clothes herself. And if there is a message supposed to be sent, is this her own message? Perhaps not and perhaps why there is so much dissatisfaction from her camp.

Thank you Gaylene for your thought provoking posts. They are a true power move: examining one’s own perceptions. I have read the linked article and Vanessa Friedman in The NY Times, but I did not do any research on the photographer, nor did I examine my own first feelings. You have reminded me that I should do so!

Wow Gaylene your thinking certainly adds to the debate. I have not really had an opinion on the photos, I feel a bit far removed from the other side of the world. You give me even more to consider.

While I do LOVE Madam Vice President's unapologetic fashion sense (those sneakers, her Timberlands, all the stuff she does that isn't a powersuit and heels), I don't like that cover. The part that disturbs me most is that awful background of pea soup green. The light grey suit cover is beautiful all around to my eye

Without knowing anything about the background for this particular shoot, in the past I worked in a role where I had to organise shoots, and the quality of the end product may have been affected by the limitations on the shoot.
For someone as senior as KH, they probably had one opportunity to take the shots, and if they lost the steam iron, or didn’t have a good range of clothes to pick from...they just had to work with what they had. All normal stuff (the losing of steam irons, or other kit, the limited time to shoot) and likely even more so with the pandemic. In normal times you would just schedule another shoot, if possible, but not at the moment, and not with this subject, I suspect.

The idea of sending a message is interesting, but what might that message be? As far as defying expectations, this is a woman who has pursued and mostly conformed to the traditional "white woman power outfit" for the better part of her life. Why, with her greatest achievement so far, would she choose to subvert that image? If the outfit were a "power outfit" in any sense of the word or in any culture, I would understand how it challenged perceptions of Vogue's usual audience, but it doesn't seem to be.

In politics, the expectations are more societal than a racial or cultural, so that again leaves me searching for a message. Without further context or commentary from the artist/photographer, I have to default to Chiara's comments that this was simply an unfortunate turn of events. Indeed, if Harris' camp is unhappy, then perhaps they don't understand the intended "message" either.