Atlantic Editor Apologizes For Greenberg's McCain Photos; Considers Lawsuit


WASHINGTON, DC – The editor of Atlantic Monthly magazine says that not only is he sending Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain an apology letter for the manipulated images photographer Jill Greenberg posted on her Web site, but that Greenberg violated the terms of the magazine's agreement with her and that the Atlantic is "taking steps."

Editor James Bennet told Fox News that Greenberg, known mostly for her pictures of crying babies, simians, and bears, "behaved improperly" and will not be paid for the cover photo shoot.

Bennet said that the magazine is considering a lawsuit against Greenberg.

"This photographer went in there under our auspices to take a cover shot for us ... but while she was there she behaved in an incredibly underhanded and unprofessional way," Bennet told Fox News.

"We feel totally blind-sided," Bennet told the New York Post. "Her behavior is outrageous. Incredibly unprofessional."

Greenberg's manipulated photographs include images of McCain with vampire teeth and blood dripping down his chin, and a picture of a chimpanzee defecating on McCain's head, which she posted on her Web site (called the "Manipulator") and then bragged about it.

During a photo shoot for Atlantic Monthly in Las Vegas, Greenberg says she shot the series of images from which one was selected for the magazine's cover, and then asked the Senator to stand in another lighting set-up for a few shots which illuminated the candidate from beneath, a lighting technique commonly referred to as "monster" lighting because of its use in horror shows.

Greenberg bragged to a photography industry-related magazine that neither the candidate nor his handlers noticed how she was lighting him for these shots, the images that she later doctored and published on the Web. "I guess they're not very sophisticated," Greenberg was quoted as saying.

"There's more than enough blame to go around in this fiasco," NPPA's Ethics & Standards chair John Long said today from Hartford, CT.

"Atlantic Monthly did not vet their choice of photographer well enough, and the McCain people should have paid more attention to what was happening. But the real issue is the integrity of the photographer," Long said.

"Journalism is based on credibility and honesty, and if someone is acting like a journalist (even if his or her primary role is as an artist or portraitist), the photographer's word must be sacrosanct. To lie is to violate the sense of trust that journalism is founded upon. This act damages all journalists who value their credibility. We all have political opinions but we can't use subterfuge to advance our political goals when we're representing ourselves as objective journalists. This conduct is diametrically opposed to NPPA's Code of Ethics."

The McCain photo shoot was arranged for an Atlantic Monthly story by writer Jeffrey Goldberg. "Suffice it to say that her 'art' is juvenile, and on occasion repulsive," Goldberg wrote in response to the flap. "This is not the issue, of course; the issue is that she betrayed this magazine, and disgraced her profession."

"Greenberg is quite obviously an indecent person who should not be working in magazine journalism," Goldberg wrote on the magazine's Web site.

Greenberg's husband and spokesperson Robert Green told Radar Online that his wife "has done nothing wrong. She delivered them the photo that they asked her to deliver. What she does with the rest of the photos is her business."

The Web site Online Public Relations Thoughts says the Greenberg incident contains an important lesson for PR practitioners: "Always know what a photographer is doing with a subject," Jim Horton wrote on their Web site.

"The editors of Atlantic Magazine who hired her failed to check her affiliations, so she got away with her trick ... The magazine has publicly apologized ... and called the photographer irresponsible, but the damage was done. This is not the first time a photographer has used lighting to make a point. It's just the latest example," Horton said. "The humbling part of the experience is that McCain's handlers were standing right there and didn't see it happen. It pays to be paranoid sometimes."

Prior to her McCain photo flap, Greenberg's most recent controversy was her 2004 series of photographs of unhappy and crying children done with extensive glamour lighting, called "End Times," for which received widespread criticism for her apparent willingness to torment children until they cried so that she could photograph them. Greenberg reportedly snatched candy away from some of the children moments before photographing them, in order to make make them cry. When they were exhibited in Los Angeles the photographer captioned the pictures of the crying children with anti-George Bush slogans.

Greenberg told The Guardian newspaper that provoking children to tears so that she could photograph them "reminded me of our helplessness and [the] anger I feel about our current political and social situation."