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Monday, September 15, 2008

Caught In Her Own Bad Lighting

Jill Greenberg pulled a fast one on John McCain, yesiree, she's a smart one she is...
To say Ms. Greenberg's use of this material in this way is "unprofessional" and does the subject (John McCain) and the client (The Atlantic Monthly) a disservice is to vastly understate the case. Not only has Ms. Greenberg exposed The Atlantic to charges of bias it may well have not intended, it turns out she was engaged in dealing with Senator McCain falsely as well. She has, indeed, bragged about it to PDNPulse, a professional photographers' journal. Here, in her own words, are what she did:

When The Atlantic called Jill Greenberg, a committed Democrat, to shoot a portrait of John McCain for its October cover, she rubbed her hands with glee...

After getting that shot, Greenberg asked McCain to “please come over here” for one more set-up before the 15-minute shoot was over. There, she had a beauty dish with a modeling light set up. “That’s what he thought he was being lit by,” Greenberg says. “But that wasn’t firing.”

What was firing was a strobe positioned below him, which cast the horror movie shadows across his face and on the wall right behind him. “He had no idea he was being lit from below,” Greenberg says. And his handlers didn’t seem to notice it either. “I guess they’re not very sophisticated,” she adds.

So what we see here is a candidate for President showing up at a photo-session for a cover shot for a magazine he knows is not going to give him an Obama-pass, but still making time for it. Waiting for him is the contracted representative of that magazine, Jill Greenberg, who has literally set a trap for him and then lures him into it. She mocks the McCain staff for not being "very sophisticated" about lighting when, in truth, the lighting used for a professional photo session is very complicated. There are umbrella lights, fill spots, and a raft of others being used at any given time.

I imagine that Ms. Greenberg was in full charm mode with Senator McCain at the same time she was executing her little partisan plot. Indeed, I am certain she was nothing other than sweetness and light to him. What she was doing was quite another thing, a vile thing. Simply put, it was betrayal for a cheap political frisson for her.

Then Greenberg extended the betrayal to her Client, The Atlantic. She either did not deliver all the images of the shoot to the client or she began to manipulate them for her own uses as seen above. In this digital age, she probably ftp'd the images to The Atlantic, kept the originals on her own system, and then made the cheap and disgusting photoshops seen above.

I'm not sure how the art director of The Atlantic, Jason Treat, feels about this, even though I have written him requesting a reply. Still, during the years that I hired and worked with illustrative photographers, product photographers, news photographers, and fashion photographers in London and New York City, my art directors and myself always got all the film to review. Depending on the contract, the film would or would not go back to the photographer. When digital came, it was always understood that the out-takes or images we commissioned and paid for would be kept confidential by the photographer -- as specified in the rights agreement. At the very least, we would have exclusive use of them for a considerable period of time.

One thing I do know is that if I, or any other editor or art director, ever caught a photographer using images held back for secondary profit outside of the contract, or using images in a way that would undercut our publication, we would pull that photographer's card out of the assignment rolodex. Not only that we would make it out business to tell other editors and art directors at other publications that such a photographer was never to be trusted again.
Greenberg's antics are hardly worth getting upset about. She's made herself look worse than anyone she's ever photographed. It's obvious that she's juvenile, silly, and yes... unsophisticated.

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