Annie Leibovitz under fire for “poorly lit” photos of Black skin… Again

Aug 22, 2022

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Annie Leibovitz under fire for “poorly lit” photos of Black skin… Again

Aug 22, 2022

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Annie Leibovitz Black

Vogue recently hired famous photographer Annie Leibovitz to take photos of the United States Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. As perhaps we could have expected after those Simone Biles photos, people were all over Leibovitz over “poorly lit” images.

Many have criticized the photographer over the “poor” lighting of Jackson’s brown skin. Some attempted to “fix” the photos and relight them. And some went as far as claiming that Leibovitz should not be allowed to photograph Black people.

The backlash started when Leibovitz posted the photos she took for Vogue to her Twitter.

As it usually happens on Twitter, people started whining about them and about Leibovitz being “unable to light dark skin properly.” Some of them wondered why Vogue still hired the photographer, claiming that she should be banned from photographing Black people and a Black person should be hired instead. I was honestly surprised with how much anger some of these tweets contain.

https://twitter.com/EugeneAJFreeman/status/1560048297213104129

Some folks rushed to “fix” Leibovitz’s photos and prove that they know better. Some used Lightroom, and others only apps on their phones. They honestly reminded me of those people in college who always had poor grades in certain subjects yet claimed that “they knew the subject better than professors.”

https://twitter.com/ManiacalV/status/1559996054312865793

https://twitter.com/spinart7/status/1559686857616924672

I have nothing against critically observing someone’s work, even if they’re an acclaimed photographer like Annie Leibovitz. No one knows everything and everyone has some great work, and some less great. I personally don’t particularly like these photos, but knowing Leibovitz’s style, I’m pretty sure that the lighting and the somewhat gloomy mood were intentional.

However, I am bothered by angry internet warriors who don’t seem to own the power of critical thinking nor they know the photographer’s earlier work. It bothers me that people take their personal opinions as facts and treat them that way. And oh boy, am I bothered and frightened by so much boiling anger. You may like something or not, but you can still stay civilized and have a normal discussion.

I know, I know: I am not a Black person and I can’t understand the struggle they’ve been through. I live in a totally different culture and very far from the US. But this is why I will finish this off with words from a Black photographer who commented on the Simone Biles story here on DIYP:

“Speaking as a photographer myself, I withhold comment on the photoeditorial intent of the photographer, wrt the finished product.

Speaking as a black photographer, however, I wish to categorically disagree with those who express the view that the job should automatically be given to a black photographer. I would feel less than honoured if that were to be the only (or even the main) criterion on which I’m chosen for an assignment such as this. Just saying.”

[via PetaPixel]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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16 responses to “Annie Leibovitz under fire for “poorly lit” photos of Black skin… Again”

  1. Tyrant T-103 Avatar
    Tyrant T-103

    There’s a certain element that are always going to find something to complain about because complaining is what they like to do. I don’t see anything wrong with these pictures and they actually look natural.

  2. one50 Avatar
    one50

    It’s a shame the masses jump straight to cry “racism.” Photography is an art, and as such the person behind the camera has a vision and an interpretation of how they see a subject and what they see in their own work. The blown out, over exposed HDR look has become standard these days and for many traditional photographers that came up shooting from the days of film, manipulation of lighting, overworked photos using photoshop etc is frowned upon, because it is no longer a photograph, its a digital graphic design. Anyway I don’t believe for a second Leibovitz photographed the image with any bias or racism, and we have to also keep in mind that viewing photos in print is not the same as on our phones or a backlit screen. Annie Leibovitz has her own style, and she did not deviate from that in this shoot or the other one with Simone Biles. The progressive left who want to segregate the world – stating a black photographer should photograph black people.” You have a right to say you don’t like the style of photography or the photograph. But to insinuate someone is racist and make these statements public is reckless and disrespectful of everyone involved in the process, the people in the photo, the photographer, the editorial staff. You all should be ashamed and maybe the real racist is the one who’s head is constantly full of these thoughts….

    1. ITN Avatar
      ITN

      While I am sure that AL will not intentionally make anyone’s portrait inferior, whatever their race is, it still remains that AL’s portraits of black women are often sad and gloomy even if the context of the images should be full of joy. In her portraits of Barack Obama, there are highlights and shadows, and the outcome is very beautiful. However, in these images of justice KBJ, there are no highlights in her skin, thus the moody and gloomy appearance. Why does she do that and not recognize that this doesn’t work for the subject and context? Is AL crying for the mistreatment of black women and this is reflected in the images? Why do editors choose her to do these jobs? The photographer doesn’t need to be black to be able to photograph black people well, but clearly these companies do not hire black photographers often, so there is something to correct right there if the society is to be healed. Joe McNally is a white man who does understand that black skin needs highlights and this is reflected in his images of black women and men. His images might not be as artistic and refined as Leibovitz’s (McNally sometimes puts too much “spark” there, likely to get the attention of the viewer of magazine covers) but they’re good enough so that the audience would not feel discriminated against.

  3. kb Avatar
    kb

    It’s difficult to critique images online because of the inconsistency in monitor color and brightness. Having said that, to me they look fine. Is this a case of black people being biased towards lighter skinned people?

  4. jsm Avatar
    jsm

    Bullshit like this should just be ignored.

  5. John Semper Jr. Avatar
    John Semper Jr.

    The only part of what you wrote that I agree with: “I am not a Black person and I can’t understand the struggle they’ve been through.”

    1. Janksta Joe Avatar
      Janksta Joe

      100%. And ending this with a cherry picked quote from a black photographer to justify her tone deaf view is such a white supremacists thing to do. It’s always a bad idea to write about things that she has no experience with such as the point of view of People Of Color and telling us how we should feel and how we should express our discontent. But in case she continues to do so, we will always be here to check her white privilege. Same goes for the rest of you.

  6. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmid Avatar
    John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmid

    This article is like telling Picasso that his art is trash. AL can do whatever she wants when photographing people. Why encourage people to think their opinion really matters,with articles like this?

    1. allenwrench Avatar
      allenwrench

      Sure, artists need room to work. But the Lincoln photo doesn’t have much art injected in it. Looks more like a poorly done snapshot.

    2. allenwrench Avatar
      allenwrench

      Sure, artists need room to work. But the Lincoln photo doesn’t have much art injected in it. Looks more like a poorly done snapshot.

  7. allenwrench Avatar
    allenwrench

    I thought this was going to be the same old racist screams from the black supremacists, but the photo with Lincoln does look pretty bad.

  8. allenwrench Avatar
    allenwrench

    I thought this was going to be the same old racist screams from the black supremacists, but the photo with Lincoln does look pretty bad.

  9. Bipin Gupta Avatar
    Bipin Gupta

    Dark Skin – Brown or Black is exceedingly captivating. This lady Annie Leibovitz appears to be having some psychosis against Dark Skinned people – won’t use the word Racist. She should know that Dark Skinned People Guide and Rule the World today in all Fields of Life or Education. Perhaps this will help to remove her bias. People like Tyrant know nothing about the Art of Photography.

  10. DIYP community member Avatar
    DIYP community member

    To be black is not a desease or something that has to be fixed in post. Black is beautiful and I like the way Anni is catching that.

  11. DIYP community member Avatar
    DIYP community member

    The best way to light black skin in my experience has been to cross polarize your lighting.
    That means putting a polarized gel over the light source and then having a polarizing filter on your lens which allows you to fine tune how much glare reflects off the skin.
    Add a black pro mist
    filter, and you can make any shade of black skin look beautiful.
    That was the technique that Oprah Winfrey used to rave about her TV series cinematographers Special lighting

  12. DIYP community member Avatar
    DIYP community member

    Wow!