Tyler Mitchell was a wedding photographer in Houston, Texas, in the 1940s and 1950s.
He was also the first photographer to shoot his wedding to his wife’s mother in her home.
He was arrested on charges of violating the Texas Death Penalty Act for photographing the execution of his wife and her mother in the early morning hours of February 23, 1951.
“The Texas Death Row Act had been repealed in 1953,” Mitchell told BuzzFeed News.
“So that was the first time I had a chance to see my own mother and her family again.
I was a photographer at the time.
My wife was an assistant to the assistant director.
The woman who was working the night shift at the jail that night had taken the photos, and she had given me permission to take them.
So I took those photos.
I shot the photos.
That was the last time I took pictures of them.”
“I’m glad I did it.
I don’t want to go back,” Mitchell said.
As the only woman working at the Texas death row at the turn of the century, Mitchell’s work in the jail was highly regarded.
He also earned a reputation as a good friend of the mentally ill, and many of his photos are known to show the patients being held.
But the photos are also known to have caused a stir at the prison, especially after his wife died of an overdose in 1954.
The images that Mitchell took of his mother and his daughter are now on view in the Houston Public Library’s collection of his work.
Mitchell, now 87, has worked at the library since it opened in 2012.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the idea of taking a photo of my mother’s ashes, and it would be like a nightmare, but I’d do it,” Mitchell explained.
“They’re like a memory I’d never get rid of.”
Mitchel’s family, which has lived in Houston for 30 years, was initially supportive of his decision to take the photos but, at the same time, Mitchell said he was surprised by the response.
After his wife passed away, Mitchell was contacted by a group of inmates, including the daughter of the man who had killed his mother.
He told BuzzFeed news that he was also contacted by the inmate who threatened to kill his family if he did not get the photos taken.
“My wife had a very strong desire to go to the gallows,” Mitchell recalled.
“And that was her motivation.
But she had the gall to do it.”
He told BuzzFeed that he decided to get the images because he had the opportunity to shoot her in her jail cell, a room that was very different from the ones in which he had worked before.
In his work for the Houston Police Department, Mitchell had been a “captain’s assistant” in the 1990s.
During his time in the department, he was responsible for the handling of crime scenes, including shooting the images for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Mitchell said the images that he took during his time at the police department have been among the most cherished in his collection.
His wife and daughter were among those that he chose to shoot, and he said that he wanted to do everything he could to help their families through their final days.
I didn’t have the ability to take photos of the execution, but the people who were there at the end of it had to see me taking that photo.
But I did. “
If I hadn’t been there, I would have missed the execution.
But I did.
I have this memory of being at the execution site.”
The Texas death penalty statute was repealed in 1977, but Mitchell said that the law was never fully repealed.
“It wasn’t repealed,” he said.
“We’re still trying to repeal the statute.”
As for the pictures he took of the executed women, Mitchell, who lives in Texas with his wife, said that it was a difficult time to be in the position of photographing them.
“All of these women were very distraught, and I think I was very emotional.
I didn’t know what I was going to do with the photographs,” Mitchell shared.
“But I knew it was important to have those photos, especially for my wife, so that she could go home and mourn.”
On January 18, Mitchell and his wife were granted a release from jail by a judge.
He said that his wife felt the images of her mother and daughter would be “a huge part of the legacy of the woman and the family.”
And he said the photographs that he had taken during his stay in the Texas prison were important to him.
“These photos are very important to me, and they’re not going away,” Mitchell added.