Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taking Partisanship Too Far: A Photographer Ruins Her Own Image

As a semi-pro photographer, would-be political analyst and self-appointed quixotic striver for justice, allow me to join in the chorus of boos rightly directed against Jill Greenberg. For those not following the story, here's what happened in a nutshell. Greenberg, a Democrat, was hired by The Atlantic to take a portrait of John McCain for their magazine. Greenberg took several images, including one where she "tricked" McCain into posing where he would be lit from below, making him look like a comic book villain. The magazine used a different shot than this one, but even on that image she bragged about not bothering to retouch it in the way one normally would for this type of photo. And as if that weren't enough, she also put several really childish Photoshop hack jobs of McCain on her web site.

The NY Post reports:

Greenberg, known for her heavily retouched pics of apes and babies, boasted to Photo District News that she submitted photos of the Arizona senator to the mag while barely airbrushing them.

"I left his eyes red and his skin looking bad," she boasted.

Greenberg also crowed that she had tricked McCain into standing over a strobe light placed on the floor - turning the septuagenarian's face into a horror show of shadows.

Asking McCain to "please come over here" for a final shot, Greenberg pretended to be using a standard modeling light.

The resulting photos depict McCain as devilish, with bulging brows and washed-out skin.

"He had no idea he was being lit from below," Greenberg said, adding that none of his entourage picked up on the light switch either. "I guess they're not very sophisticated," she said.

The Atlantic opted not to use the distorted McCain shot on its cover, selecting instead a more straightforward portrait.

"We stand by the picture we are running on our cover," said Atlantic editor James Bennet. "We feel it's a respectful portrait. We hope we'll be judged by that picture."

But Bennet was appalled by Greenberg saying she tried to portray McCain in an unflattering way.

"We feel totally blind-sided," he said. "Her behavior is outrageous. Incredibly unprofessional."

Greenberg later decided to use some of the images she was assigned to take to make a political statement.

Her Web site now features a series of Photoshopped pics of McCain in some highly unflattering poses - including one that has a monkey squirting dung onto the Republican candidate's head.

Another one reads "I am a bloodthirsty warmongerer," with McCain retouched to have needle-sharp shark teeth and a vicious grin, while licking blood-smeared lips.

Greenberg was unapologetic about the assignment.

"Some of my artwork has been pretty anti-Bush, so maybe it was somewhat irresponsible for [The Atlantic] to hire me."

Editor Bennet said, "We don't vet our photographers by their politics."

In a statement yesterday, Greenberg added, "The pictures speak for themselves. I took the opportunity to create an image which shows my feelings about the Republican administration and possible continuation of the policies of the Bush/Cheney White House."

No, Ms. Greenberg, what you did was to destroy your professional credibility and make yourself look like a juvenile idiot. This sort of blatant, childish propaganda doesn't do anything to stop the Republican policies you dislike, it plays into the hands of the people who wish to continue them, and harms those who try to make a legitimate case against John McCain's candidacy.

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