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Unrepentant Photographer Turns McCain Into a Monster

It's not the first time photographer Jill Greenberg has behaved unprofessionally.

by
Michele Catalano

Bio

September 15, 2008 - 12:38 am
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What has become of journalistic integrity? As if it wasn’t already on its way to a slow death, its demise has been shoved forward a few steps thanks to the Atlantic and photographer Jill Greenberg.

Ms. Greenberg, a professional, award-winning photographer, was hired by the Atlantic to do a photo shoot of John McCain, for an article written by Jeffrey Goldberg.

She delivered the image the magazine asked for — shot that makes the Republican presidential nominee look heroic … [b]ut she didn’t bother to do much retouching on her McCain images. “I left his eyes red and his skin looking bad,” she says.

Greenberg then asked McCain to take another photo. This time she purposely set up the shoot so that the photo would be taken in harsh light and at a bad angle, making McCain look  monstrous and menacing.

The Atlantic did not use that shot for their cover, but they did use the one that Greenberg did not touch up at all. And while that may not be disingenuous in and of itself, the fact that she probably would have touched up the photo if she did not have a visceral hatred for the presidential candidate is.  In other words, Greenberg editorialized the article by way of her photography.

That’s not a bad thing, you say.  The Atlantic is a magazine. They are not beholden to any party, any candidate, any ideals.  What they do is editorialize.  This is the magazine that employs Andrew Sullivan.  But there is one thing wrong with this particular case of wearing your politics on  your media sleeve;  this was not Greenberg’s article.   She chose to use a very unflattering image as a way to insert her opinion into the mix and editorialize an article that was written by someone else.  That someone else — Jeffrey Goldberg — is not happy with Greenberg’s actions:

Like others at the Atlantic, I was appalled to read about the actions of Jill Greenberg, the freelance photographer who took the cover portrait that illustrates my article about John McCain… Suffice it to say that her “art” is juvenile, and on occasion repulsive. This is not the issue, of course; the issue is that she betrayed this magazine, and disgraced her profession.

The Atlantic, scrambling to recover from the backlash, is sending out this PR snippet to anyone who inquires about the controversy:

We stand by the respectful image of John McCain that we used on our cover, and we expect to be judged by it. We were not aware of the manipulated and dishonest images Jill Greenberg had taken until this past Friday.

When we contract with photographers for portraits, we don’t vet them for their politics — instead, we assess their professional track records. Based on the portraits she had done of politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and her work for publications like Time, Wired, and Portfolio, we expected Jill Greenberg, like the other photographers we work with, to behave professionally.

Jill Greenberg has obviously not done that. She has, in fact, disgraced herself, and we are appalled by the manipulated images she has created for her Web site of John McCain.

Too bad Jill Greenberg has a history of behaving unprofessionally.

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