This story has been percolating around the web for the last week or so. It seems that when The Atlantic a shot of the Republican presidential candidate John McCain, they called Jill Greenberg, a committed Democrat to handle the shoot. 

Jill Greenberg’s images are usually highly retouched, but for the McCain portrait, she didn’t do much, if any retouching. According the the PDNPulse Blog, Jill said that she “ left his eyes red and his skin looking bad,” 

The Atlantic issued the following statement: 

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. We had never worked with Jill Greenberg before (and, obviously, we will not work with her again). Based on the portraits she had done of politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and her work for publications like Time, Wired, and Portfolio,we expected her, 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.

The controversy is about what happened at the end of the photo-shoot when Jill had the Presidential candidate pose with a strobe placed low and pointing up to cast a “Horror Movie Poster” look to the image. Jill Greenberg then posted this image on her website: 

The most interesting take on the hole subject is by Mark Tucker who wrote a Blog entry called “Fourteen Questions about the Greenberg / McCain mess.” The Blog entry can be found here:

Some of the great questions that Mark came up with are posted below. I don’t know the answer to them, but I am sure of one thing, this is going to change the way magazines do business.

2. Can a photographer be both an “artist” and a “commercial photographer”, simultaneously? Can they toe the line between the two disciplines?


5. Could this force more commercial photographers to shoot digital and tethered, so that the publicist or handler can stand there, next to the Digital Tech, and see what’s being shot, and be powerful enough to immediately pull the plug on the session if the light is bottom-lit like that?


10. Don’t you know that, tomorrow morning, in many magazine offices, there’ll be lawyers called into action to revise and ammend the Photographers Agreements? I’m not sure how they’ll restructure the wording, but you know there will be some hand-wringing about this topic.


11. Is it right that Greenberg would take a job, with the vision being her formula “ringlight-fill-with-hotter-keylight-with-two-sidelight-hotter-rims” but then consciously make the choice to “leave his eyes red, and his skin rough”?


12. How will this affect her future work with agencies? Since she’s in LA, maybe it’ll elevate her in the liberal marketplace? The new “bad girl”? The new “female Serrano”? Or, could it kill the more traditional commercial assignments, due to corporations’ fear of scandal?