Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Visual Sabotage 

This incident of photographic sabotage has received attention in the news, but it contains an important lesson for PR practitioners. Always know what a photographer is doing with a subject. In this case, the photographer deliberately "horror lighted" candidate John McCain because she is an avowed Democrat. The editors of Atlantic Magazine who hired her had failed to check on her affiliations, so she got away with her trick.

The magazine has publicly apologized for one photograph and called the photographer irresponsible, but the damage was done. This is not the first time that a photographer has used lighting to make a point. It's just the latest example. 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 some times.

It would be good to be accurate. The photographer shot the requested portrait in a number of different ways, including attractively and opinionatedly. The editor chose the desired cover shot and the photographer put some of the outtakes on her personal site.

There the author of the accompanying article saw the outtakes which upset him as they were not complimentary to his opinion of the subject.

How is this a problem? Here's how.

IF the photographer's contract specified that she could not publish the outtakes for a time limit and she abrogated that term of the contract, that's a problem.

IF the magazine was actually the holder of the copyright to the images and the photographer put them on her site, that's a problem.

Aside from that, there are no legal problems. Nor should there be any First Amendement problems.

Not liking the results of a shoot happens all the time. In this case, the author of the article did not have any say over the images not selected.

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