Photographer Jill Greenberg–did her ego get the better of her?

A bad economy and a presidential election coming to a close has way of pushing everything else into the background.

It’s to be expected then that even photographers feel they want to or can influence the outcome of important events like this Presidential election.

When I read about  Canadian-born photographer Jill Greenberg and her portrait session with John McCain, I was a little disturbed.

A disclaimer here is in order: I’m not a big fan of Obama but can’t say I will vote against him either.

I will give my 2 cents worth of what I think she did.

Read the background for this story:

So if you don’t have time to write the background, I’ll cut to the chase.

Jill Greenberg, used pictures she took from that session and doctored them in photoshop and posted them on her website.

As of Oct.18, 2008, it looks like she has been feeling the heat. When you navigate her website to names>john mccain, it is grayed out, meaning she’s disabled the link.

Fortunately for us living in the age of the internet, fair use and all, American Digest has some of the images on their site.

There are many, many opinions of what she did. Most of them hostile. Not surprisingly those who voice their opinions were very passionate about politics.

My first instinct on reading this was outrage but when I thought a little more about it, I realized that she probably has the right to do what she wants with her work on her own website.

But to use such underhandedness with the intent to impose your view on an unsuspecting subject is wrong. Then to turn around and say “it was irresponsible for the Atlantic to hire me because they knew my work…” that’s speaks of her ego.

Greenberg needs to learn some humility. British photographer Platon who photographed Vladimir Putin for Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” cover says he checks his ego at the door. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a bad lesson for Greenberg to learn.

But as to whether this is suicide for her livelihood as a photographer …

It  will depend on whether the advertisers to the Atlantic magazine and her other clients feel the heat from the public.

Here’s the editor of Atlantic magazine being interviewed about this.

4 thoughts on “Photographer Jill Greenberg–did her ego get the better of her?”

  1. So much has been said about this. In the end, it comes down to who you are as a person. Yet I can’t believe some of the remarks made by Jill Greenberg’s defenders. There was even references to that infamous pictures taken by the great photojournalist Alfred Eisenstadt of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The one where Goebbels stares at the camera in a very ominous look.
    I mean, come on people, get a grip! McCain = Goebbels? I wish Jill Greenberg well, she’ll need it. I’m probably wrong and this won’t be the first time I am.

  2. When I first read about this issue a few weeks ago, I was immediately appalled. I as a photojournalist have been trained to leave my own feelings OUT of my photos, especially when it comes to politics. Inserting my own emotions into my photography in this way is extremely unprofessional. We as photojournalists are trained to remain objective and weigh both sides of every issue. That being said, I have since learned that Jill Greenberg is not a trained photojournalist. She is trained in the art of photography. This is not excusing her behavior, but it certainly sheds light on why she had no problem doing what she did. You can be sure that she has certainly shot herself in the foot in mainstream media, but perhaps she can continue to work with media that are not objective. She can certainly continue to work in her fine art photography.

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