Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Jill Greenberg shoots John McCain and her own foot in the process

Photo Copyright Chris Phillips

If you have not yet heard of the controversy, Jill Greenberg was recently contracted by The Atlantic to shoot John McCain for their October issue's cover. Greenberg set up and took additional shots of the presidential hopeful during the photo set and later created several unflattering, to say the least, images greatly altered with Photoshop. One most notably, to me anyway, had a chimpanzee taking a crap on McCain's head (see here as I'm not posting this on my blog.) 

Photo District News explains the story better than I ever could. 

Responses rage across the internet, some of support, some of condemnation. Greenberg has since taken the manipulated images of McCain down from her website and was dropped by the photo agency. In these inflammatory political times, as Mark Tucker suggests who knows what is true, rumor, or exaggeration at this point. Like Mark, I'm fascinated by the story and have my own two cents to throw in.

First, why would you do this to your fellow professional photographers?
I'm sure that many a contract lawyer is happy as can be that they will be again welcomed to the negotiating table as magazines and commercial entities try to protect themselves from the "Greenberg fiasco." I'm not quite sure why The Atlantic would commission someone who's career was largely made by making a political statement against the current administration but like it or not Greenberg was representing all commercial photographers and should have considered the ramifications to the profession as a whole. I think a stronger political statement would have been made by turning down the money, instead now the movement of each light in a photo shoot will be seen as some sort of attempted chicanery. Must we now submit a registration of our party lines to ensure a client of non bias? 

Is the best political statement that one can make, a monkey taking a crap on someone's head?
I applaud the creativity of some of Greenberg's other work. Creating a series using crying children as a reference to the apocalypse brought about by the current administrations policies, well that's brilliant stuff. Thought provoking, meaningful, displaying craft and intent, but a crapping chimp. Seriously? 

Where's the reset button?
I ask myself this sometimes while looking at the events unfolding with this story and the larger political campaign stories flooding our media today. Would Jill take it back if she could? Would either candidate really go back in time to their moral high-ground before the smear tactics began? Likely, I must sadly say, not. Then, we might all have to look at the real issues facing this country. We might have to answer as to why we were so easily marshaled into raising our fists in outrage or support for things that don't really matter. 

I for one am cutting out to do what I love and leave this story and those like it behind. Off to take pictures.

Mark had a nice disclosure with his blog entry so I'll steal his idea and do my own:
I am an independent. I'm a fine art photographer. I also believe  the words of my father,"If I would actually want to vote for someone as president, they would be too smart to run in the first place."
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