Jill Greenberg officially took herself off everyone’s list with that little stunt she pulled with outtakes from her McCain cover shoot for The Atlantic (I’m talking about all the photoshopping not the “lit from below” picture which felt like a nice try but not quite there) and made it a little more difficult for Photo Editors to get someone new and untested past the editor and more importantly the publicist.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about Mark Tucker has links to all the coverage and several questions of his own (here).
It’s the publicists who usually vet the photographers and if you’ve ever looked at a celebrity or political picture and thought “the most interesting thing about that picture is the person in it” that’s because safety is more important than creating something visually exciting. The challenge for Photo Editors has always been getting interesting photographers past the publicists because they always google them or come with a pre-approved list just to make certain the photographer will not do something unflattering or controversial. So, I’m shocked that the McCain camp approved her given the “candy and crying children” controversy that’s not much more than a google click away (well, it used to be a google click away…) but I’m guessing that The Atlantic didn’t seem to pose much of a threat so there was no background check on the photographer.
Hit pieces in magazines are not unusual, but it’s usually the writers that are the one’s waiting till the shoot is in the can, the fact-checking mostly done and then they can finally ring the subject up and start asking hard questions. What’s unusual here is that Jill went off and did it on her own without letting the magazine know what she was up to. Usually the magazine is involved in these kinds of decisions if not directing them in the first place. So, I can pretty much guarantee she’s not interested in getting hired anymore to do “the monkey light” and really just wants to be known as someone who manipulates. Even if some Photo Editor wanted to hire her now they wouldn’t get her past the editor let alone the publicist.
The Atlantic unfortunately got burned in the whole deal but there’s no way to know when someone is going to go rogue on you and if it ever happened in the past nobody would even know about it. The 2 week embargo seems unusual to me and it’s likely a function of The Atlantic wanting really badly to do something interesting in a very crowded newsstand and allowing Jill Greenberg to lay down the rules on what it would take for her to shoot a cover (at which point I would expect a photographer to tell me they hate the person they’re about to photograph and might not be the best choice for this assignment). If I’d been the Photo Editor in that situation I would be looking for a new job because I would have had to convince the editor to take a chance on a first time cover shooter for the magazine with very little political experience and on top of it get them to reduce the embargo to 2 week for outtakes.
Ultimately I don’t think she’s suddenly screwed it all up for photographers everywhere because shoots of this nature are almost always closely watched by the publicists, the terms with the magazine are exclusive and publishing outtakes from a cover shoot will land you in court
This was a very deliberate act by a photographer who knew she was going to get blackballed by publicists and make herself un-hireable in the editorial world to make a political statement or maybe she just wanted to remove herself from the editorial world in a dramatic way because in the end who but clients visits a photographers portfolio site and if you’re tired of having clients and working with publicists and just want to make art then this is one way to do it.