Several critics on Twitter (including New York Times national picture editor Morrigan McCarthy) took shots at the dimly lit images of Biles inside and out by famous photog Annie Leibovitz — and suggested that Vogue should have used a Black photographer (and hire more Black photographers in general), or at the very least find someone who better understands Black skin tones.
A few were fiercely defensive of Leibovitz, however, describing her as a painterly photographer who usually knows exactly she’s doing. The photos illustrate a profile of Biles that includes the dark story of Larry Nassar, the longtime USA Gymnastics doctor now serving a life sentence for the serial sexual abuse of athletes, including Biles. She spoke candidly of the debilitating depression that gripped her as the Nassar story emerged, and her anger that gymnastics officials didn’t protect the athletes.
But others following Biles’ story in Vogue yearned for photos of her bright, powerful movement — and more flattering photos — that increased awareness at the fashion mag might have delivered.
I adore Simone Biles and am thrilled she’s on this cover… but I hate these photos. I hate the toning, I hate how predictable they are, I hate the social crop here (wtf?) and I super hate that Vogue couldn’t be bothered to hire a Black photographer. https://t.co/az0gLugdzS
— Morrigan McCarthy (@MorriganMcC) July 9, 2020
And Vogue should hire Black photographers.
— Madeline McCray (@McCrayMadeline) July 10, 2020
Normally I love Annie Leibovitz….but oh wow, no.
— laura_studarus (@Laura_Studarus) July 10, 2020
The lighting mattes her skin down and washes her out. Here is a photo by James Macari that uses natural lighting to let Simone’s skin glow and have life to it. pic.twitter.com/0JwSbAvYgH
— Lissa/Elisabeth Reed 🏳️🌈 (@lissareedbooks) July 11, 2020
That is truly awful lighting. This is Simone, dammit!
— Kristin Novotny (@KristinMNovotny) July 10, 2020
Right?! everyone’s focusing on lighting (which, yes is terrible) but the STYLING even! They made an athlete who is all about movement, look like cold stone
— Linda Linh (@LindaLinh) July 10, 2020
Oh dear. I usually love her, but hire Black photographers that know how to photograph Black people.
— Petita Flor (@ciagould) July 11, 2020
While there’s a painful history of photography and video technologies not accommodating non-white skin (see “Shirley cards” & Kodak) to assume that that’s what’s happening here is way off in my view. Leibowitz is an incredible portrait photographer and her choices are intentional
— James Robinson (@jamesrobinson50) July 11, 2020
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