By ReShonda Tate
Annie Leibovitz makes no secret that she likes to fall in love with the subjects of her photos. But when it comes to Black women, many are left wondering where’s the love?
The Vogue photographer recently shared a sneak peek from the magazine’s September issue, which features a profile of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. The images were a hot mess, and social media let Leibovitz know, she may be a pro at photographing babies, but when it comes to Black women, it’s a hard NO.
Leibovitz’s latest photo shoot took place at the National Mall. One of the pics features Brown Jackson leaning on a column, hidden behind the shadows while the large marble statue of Abraham Lincoln looms over her in the background like some type of white savior. In another pic, she sits by the the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool stretching behind her, looking like she was photographed with an iPhone 4.
Both images have Brown Jackson’s skin tone looking exceptionally dull, and don’t portray any of the power and grace that one would expect from profile in Vogue of the first Black woman on the US Supreme Court. Critics—consisting mostly of Black women—quickly noted how poor the lighting was in the pictures and how it wasn’t properly suited for Brown’s darker skin tone.
This is not the first time that the 72-year-old photographer has come under fire for her seemingly unthoughtful use of light. Numerous tweets also pointed out previous instances where photoshoots conducted by Leibovitz ranked poorly when it came to pictures of Black women. She was blasted for her depictions of other powerful Black women, including Simone Biles, Viola Davis, Serena Williams and Rihanna.
Critics complain that Leibovitz manages to make her subjects look dull, ashy and sad, a far cry from the lively and graceful people that they usually are.
And yet she continues to be hired. That’s the epitome of white privilege at work. There are a number of Black talented artists waiting to be called on to photograph Black subjects, so why is Leibovitz constantly being regarded as the default when it’s been proven time and time again that she simply can’t deliver?
Leibovitz’s photographs are what happens when Blackness is seen through a white gaze that is incapable of capturing its true beauty. It’s time to fire her from the privilege.