Jill Greenberg

Jill Greenberg is the photographer who several years back taunted babies until they started crying,, then photographed them, and then played some photoshop tricks to enhance the textures of the babies skin and tears, then created an art show out of them. As an advocate of free speech, one can hardly begrudge her right to say what she will about whatever political mood strikes her. Greenberg is an avowed Democrat, she does not like Republicans or Evangelical Christians or George W. Bush, and she chose to make a statement as such. Fine. On it’s face, she made art. Not all art should be pleasing to everyone. What art should do is elicit some emotional response, among other things. For that much, she deserves credit.

But that’s all she deserves credit for. This writer has a hard time respecting anyone who would make a baby cry for a cynical artistic purpose, and most of my liberal friends agree on this point. Now she has struck again, , this time as a contractor for Atlantic Monthly. Greenberg turns out politically to be no more than a simple partisan hack. She apparently is not familiar with John McCain or his record on war. John McCain is anything but bloodthirsty. Yet she chose to trick McCain into unflattering photographs for an upcoming cover, then turned around and used the rejects to make a political statement. The good news is that Greenberg has sufficiently honked off The Atlantic Monthly’s editorial staff,, and one would imagine she probably won’t work for them again.

More evidence of her instability: “Some of my artwork has been pretty anti-Bush, so maybe it was somewhat irresponsible for them [The Atlantic] to hire me.”

Greenberg dances on a thin line between irresponsibility and free speech. When a celebrated periodical with liberal leanings can be disgusted by the actions of a photographer, that is no small accomplishment. Photography is an honorable pursuit. It has great potential to convince, persuade, or in this case, mislead by creating a false reality. People trust photographs, but the truth is, ironically, every photograph is a lie. Even the portrait of McCain The Atlantic chose was intentionally created to be as unflattering as possible.

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.

She delivered the image the magazine asked for—a shot that makes the Republican presidential nominee look heroic. Greenberg is well known for her highly retouched images of bears and crying babies. But she didn’t bother to do much retouching on her McCain images. “I left his eyes red and his skin looking bad,” she says.

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.

Even the Photography blogs are ripping her for this one, and rightfully so. This abuse of her artistic license is simply unethical, and she is rightly being castigated for it.

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