Monday, September 15, 2008


I have often said before that there is far more to getting a great portrait of somebody than just good lighting, composition, and a great location. Sure, it can be done with only these elements -- but establishing trust with your subject(s) can take it to another level.

Sometimes this can be done solely by showing somebody your work before you actually shoot him or her. Letting them know that you are good at what you do and that you take it seriously. You can also learn how to do this by studying people -- learning how to put different types of people at ease. But most importantly, truly appreciating people can do more to establish that trust than anything else. When you take a sincere interest in who somebody is and what they do, they will sense it -- and that can make a difference when it comes to what you capture in the camera for the better.

The client also needs to know and trust that you will not deliberately shoot them in an unflattering way for the sole purpose of maliciously degrading them. And they really need to know that you will not take the images of them and do childish things. Childish things such as… ohhh, Photoshopping a defecating monkey over your subjects head as Jill Greenberg did.

Yes, that is right -- Jill Greenberg (a famous photographer) recently decided that she would take advantage of a recent shoot she did of John McCain for Atlantic magazine to promote her political viewpoints with the “outtakes”. She actually openly admitted to it in an interview for Photo District News found here.

I can go on a long-winded rant about it but I feel that David Hobby of has already put my feelings into words quite well in his response to the online version of the article:


I have always been a fan of Ms. Greenberg's ability to create a unique vision and lighting style. But this incident revealed her as someone who is both dishonest and without even a shred of professional responsibility.

Just because you are capable of doing something does not make it right to do so. The placement of the "fake" light coming in from up high shows her intent was dishonest -- she was trying to deceive everyone else involved with the shoot.

I have been a lighting photographer for over 20 years. I teach lighting at And I would not have noticed that an overhead beauty dish (complete with shining modeling light) was not firing in the midst of a few thousand watt-seconds going off.

Ms. Greenberg probably loathes this kind of duplicitous behavior when it is displayed by politicians. How is she any better than the worst of them?

Worse, the constructed images she is since publishing on her website, "Manipulator," clearly display malice and might expose her to libel in spite of McCain's status as a public person.

Ironically, if this gets picked up by the (non-photo) mainstream media, it will be incorrectly held up as an example that all journalists are hatchet people, out to get a favored candidate elected.

Which, of course, would serve to galvanize McCain's supporters and get them to the polls in November. My guess is that Ms. Greenberg did not think this far ahead while rubbing her hands in glee. This may be the most stupid, dishonest thing I have ever seen a photographer do.

From here on, next time you shoot a politician be ready to produce your voter registration card to show you are "the right kind of person" and have every image reviewed by his or her handlers before you can leave with your photos.

Ms. Greenberg has just managed to smear an entire industry in fifteen minutes. Thanks a lot, Jill.

David Hobby

Well said, David.

If anybody is interested in reading what Atlantic Monthly had to say about it, then just click here

And my personal favorite statement by them:

"At least she's not going to be paid for her dishonorable behavior. There's nothing like stopping a check to send a message."

I was happy to hear that she would not be getting paid for the job according to Atlantic Monthly and I would not blame them at all for suing her. As a matter of fact, I hope they do. Her actions may very well effect how shoots with high-profile subjects are done in the future -- and it won’t be to the photographer’s benefit.

I just don’t understand why somebody would stoop so low as Jill Greenberg has both here and in the past for the sole purpose of expressing herself. Regardless of what side you are on politically -- rude is just rude. Some people seem to lose touch with their sense of decency when it comes to expressing political viewpoints and I just don’t understand it. Just because we have the right to free speech in this country does not mean that it is always right for us to exercise it. It may very well cost her a lot of work in the future in this case – it was just plain dumb of her, if you ask me. But you never know -- she just might cash in from this whole thing. Wouldn't that be a shame?

So is anybody else out there ready for the election to be over with yet?

Update: Looks like she has been dropped by her photo agency

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