"fittingly called The Manipulator"

Michele Catalano takes a close look at the Jill Greenberg affair in a piece titled "Unrepentant Photographer Turns McCain Into a Monster":

What has become of journalistic integrity? As if it wasn't already on its way to a slow death, its demise has been shoved forward a few steps thanks to the Atlantic and photographer Jill Greenberg.
In its defense, the Atlantic explained that "When we contract with photographers for portraits, we don't vet them for their politics." Fine. No one is asking them to. But Catalano points out something I also objected to -- it's not so much Greenberg's politics that are at issue, but the fact that this was not the first time she engaged in deceptive tactics to advance her political views.
Too bad Jill Greenberg has a history of behaving unprofessionally.

In 2006, she was taken to task for her photography exhibit called End Times, in which she manipulated very young children into crying in order to use those kids to portray her own views on the state of world politics. She then went on to launch an attack against a photographer who disagreed with her methods.

Given Greenberg's reaction to the current controversy ("Some of my artwork has been pretty anti-Bush, so maybe it was somewhat irresponsible for [the Atlantic] to hire me."), it's obvious she is pretty laid back when it comes to integrity.

I'll say. "Laid back" is a kind way of putting it.

Here's Greenberg in her own words, explaining in an interview why it's OK to make children cry to promote her greater cause (linking Bush and the Iraq War to End Times):

...Maybe getting kids to cry isn't the nicest thing to do, but I'm not causing anyone permanent psychological damage.
It was hard work too:
We would book 12 or so for one day, and see who we could make cry. At the end of the day I was not in a good mood. I don't like making little kids cry.
You know what? I probably wouldn't enjoy making little kids cry either. I've never given it much thought, but if I decided to make little kids cry in order to promote my favorite cause, it wouldn't surprise me if people thought that raised questions about, you know, my integrity. (Being that I'm male, I might not get the same sort of pass, either. But that's another topic.)

Little wonder she rationalizes. It's all about the "strength" and "beauty" of the "images" (may Godwin forgive me for thinking about Leni Riefenstahl):

...That was one of the things that interested me about the project--the strength and beauty of the images as images. I also thought they made a kind of political statement about the current state of anxiety a lot of people are in about the future of the country. Sometimes I just feel like crying about the way things are going.
I don't know whether she cried or not, but she certainly seemed upset by the criticism directed at her. So upset that she switched her subject material from sensitive children to insensitive bears -- which she compared to bloggers:
After my "End Times" series, with children crying, I wanted to do more work with children, but I needed to take a break because I'd gotten such crazy backlash from people who think it's a scandal that children cry.

I wanted to you ask you about that.

You know, children cry. My daughter was crying because she couldn't wear tights under her pants when it was 80 degrees out. So, I joked that I was going to shoot grizzly bears because they're safer than bloggers.

Has the controversy affected what you've done since?

It has. The controversy and all the internet nonsense affected me, because how could it not? I think that the photos of bears growling represent the randomly misguided rage that came at me.

I didn't know that bears were known for randomly misguided rage. They do have their instincts, and of course they can be dangerous. While I'm not sure how "randomly misguided" or rage-filled the attacks on her were, mine was pretty specific. But I think she's missing the point when she characterizes her critics as "people who think it's a scandal that children cry." The point was never that children cry; it's that she made them cry.

Michele Catalano mentions Greenberg's attack on a fellow professional photographer, Thomas Hawks, who described her retaliatory tactics:

First she tries to discredit me as an insane person with personal problems who she doesn't even think has kids (even though in my blog post about her I clearly state I've got four children, have photos of my four children up on flickr and elsewhere on my blog etc.) She tells this to a professional publication American Photo (whom I've asked for a retraction from and who never contacted me to verify her claims even though they pulled quotes from my same post that referenced that I had four kids).

Next, Jill tracks down my employer, an unrelated third party who has absolutely zero to do with my personal views and opinions and tries to apply pressure to get me to pull my post. She literally calls my boss this morning who has absolutely zero to do with any of my blogging. (By the way Jill, I blog from my own laptop on my own time). The last company who thought that they could intimidate me by involving my employer, an unrelated third party, went by the name PriceRitePhoto. I don't think they are in business anymore but feel free to Google them to read the story.

And then her husband tells me that in his opinion I'm committing libel. I'm committing libel for having an opinion that what Jill is doing to these kids constitutes abuse. That to emotionally work these kids up is abusive. My opinion Robert Green. He goes on to tell me that if I want to discuss this further that I get a lawyer.

Wow. She makes bloggers look like lambs by comparison. (Perhaps she identifies with the bears more than she lets on.)

She doesn't seem to mind using the First Amendment to her own advantage and use children to assail Bush and link him to the far right, but heaven forbid that another photographer dare criticize her! (A classic example of "free speech for me, but not for thee!")

Michele Catalano concludes with the hope that her latest crooked manipulation is her last:

By bragging about how underhanded, dishonest and childlish she behaved in regards to the shoot, Jill Greenberg brought on herself everything she deserves, including but not limited to some very bad publicity. This is not the first time she gave professional photographers a bad name; hopefully it is the last.
Considering the woman's smarmy, sanctimonious self-righteousness, I doubt she thinks she has done anything wrong. In her mind, it's all for a higher cause. (And not about her, of course.)

Jill Greenberg can make children cry, demand her critics be fired, and use her photo assignment from the Atlantic as an opportunity to literally demonize McCain by making him into a profane, blood-dripping monster. This all fits the profile of a bully. But then, when people don't like it, she quickly becomes the victim, and they're bullying her.

Catalano observed that her web site is "fittingly called The Manipulator."

It's a perfect fit. Greenberg chose the name well.

posted by Eric on 09.16.08 at 09:30 AM


But I think she's missing the point when she characterizes her critics as "people who think it's a scandal that children cry."

That's a kind way of putting it. Greenberg reminds me most performance artists I know. Their life is their art. They can do anything they want at any moment, including destroying other people's moments, because it's art. If you don't approve of her making children cry, it's because you hate art and you're censoring her.

tim maguire   ·  September 16, 2008 9:54 AM

I looked at those pictures and for the life of me cannot understand why she had to make them cry. They are toddlers. They'll do the crying anyway at some point during the day.

It's obvious she doesn't have children.

Donna B.   ·  September 16, 2008 6:22 PM

If she wants to impress me she could make some Saudi kids cry, then post about it on Al Jazeera. I won't hold my breath.

She does have children, the boy is named Zed, as in Zed's dead, baby.

dr kill   ·  September 16, 2008 6:27 PM

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