OUCH: Maggie Steber accuses duckrabbit of conducting a hysterical witchunt. Am I?Written by duckrabbit
There’s no question that Maggie Steber is a top, top photographer. She’s hugely respected for all the right reasons and her voice carries weight. Tonight she’s written that duckrabbit’s (Benjamin Chesterton’s) questions regarding Jodi Bieber’s World Press winning photograph are ‘hysterical’ and amount to a ‘witchunt’. That’s quite a dressing down that deserves some thinking space.
You can read the original post here where Maggie’s thoughts were posted.
Below is Maggie’s comment (in which she makes some good points, some ill informed ones and some pretty revealing ones), and beneath is my response. Please make up your own mind, but I would like to point out nowhere have I stated that I think ‘Bieber was complicit with Time Magazine’s headline’.
(UPDATE Maggie has since written clarifying her original comments, which I have added to the bottom of the post. For the record I don’t think Maggie owes duckrabbit any kind of apology. None. Some people think that she was spot on in her criticism, others disagree; that’s just the nature of duckrabbit.)
Maggie SteberI’m growing tired of this accusation that somehow Jodi Bieber was complicit with Time Magazine’s headline.
I can tell you that she was absolutely dismayed about the headline but this is something not in her control.
So many commenters behave as though she was complicit and I’m so sorry because not coming out and publicly decrying something that magazine does—this isn’t the first time TIME MAGAZINE has supported war—does not infer compliance.
I see that you neglected to mention in your comments that a woman’s group in Afghanistan credit’s that photograph being on the cover of Time to a huge increase in support of women and more money being donated to fight this very issue on behalf of women in Afghanistan….so you are just as guilty as what you accuse Jodi of.
Secondly, give me break. Go onto any photographers’ website and we all will put scans or copies
of covers we have on magazines as well as articles inside. This is customary and yes, okay she put the Time Magazine Cover on her website. That does not imply that she is complicit, it only means that it was on the cover. And show me any photographer who isn’t proud or grateful for that. Editors don’t call us to get our okay about words they put on a photograph.
Finally, if you ever met Jodi or knew about the rest of her work on behalf of women, especially in South Africa, you would at least have again mentioned this. Her work has long celebrated the TRUE beauty of women and I’m not talking about movie actresses or skinny models……I mean real women, many large hips and breasts and butts. This smells like a witch hunt to me. If you want to go after someone, why not go after the editors at TIME MAGAZINE? All this time and energy spent on
trying to blame a photographer for something she had no control over. Should she have come out publicly and stated that she was outraged by the headline….of course she was outraged but she has chosen not to respond to this witch hunt or dignify it.
To award her the world press photo of the year is also not her doing. It’s the World Press judges and I’m sure there was debate about it because I’ve served on that jury several times and believe me, you leave with battle scars. I’m astonished to some degree at the attacks on Jodi—just because she won’t answer or do what some people think she should do.
I have to say, there are so many other photographers who do work that could also be questioned in terms of putting women into danger or that point out the same things—-and Time could have used any of those pictures as well…is it because Aisha is pretty or what?
It’s one thing to criticize Time Magazine and to criticize the judges but I think Jodi tried to portray Aisha as a victim of a terrible and ancient practice that points to many more horrid things. Is it her fault that Aisha is also a very beautiful woman?
Therewere all kinds of exchanges when that cover came out about the “lighting” etc…..there was no lighting. I asked Jodi. That was available light. And if you see the frames around that one, you’ll see that she just worked the situation in a very natural way. And you can be sure that she offered Time more than one photograph and they would demand it anyway.
Why there is so much talk about her and LESS about Time, about the PRACTICE that tortured Aisha and womens’ issues in the Middle East anyway is nonsensical. How about American foreign policy? I don’t hear anyone yelling about that.
If people want to shoot arrows, shoot them at TIME, shoot them at the World Press Judges and shoot them at American foreign policy. Some people want Jodi to make a public statement apologizing for something over which she has no control (Time doesn’t call photographers and ask them to approve a headline or even how they their pictures are used), they want her to be outraged….how do you know she isn’t? But why should she answer anyone’s accusations when people come out with both barrels blazing???
This smells, like I said, like a witch hunt and I think it stinks. She is a good person, and her work has focussed on women and women’s issuem all her career. I think there’s something else going on here, some personal vendettas or something. I’M OUTRAGED AT THIS POINT by the constant attacks. Get over it. If any person had asked Jodi in a nice and civil way, you might actually have gotten an answer. I certainly cannot speak for her but I know her, she is very good woman and she doesn’t deserve these attacks.
ATTACK TIME, ATTACK THE BRUTAL CUSTOM, ATTACK AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY but let’s not shoot the messenger….and I’m not at all sure how many photographers would have the guts to come out publicly and criticize any magazine.
Believe me, they would be few and far between. This is all hysteria and when the whole Middle East is exploding, this is not what our discussion should be about. Let’s quit vilifying someone and hanging out to dry in public someone who, at least in my opinion, doesn’t deserve it. If you want to criticize the photograph as the choice by judges, go ahead, that’s fair but the hysteria is ridiculous. Be hysterical about the practice, not the person who showed it to us. Believe me, there are photographers who do far worse things.
I respect you as a photographer but I really don’t think you’re doing Jodi any favors here.
You say that ‘she was absolutely dismayed about the headline’ and yet you see no contradiction between that and putting it on the front page of her website. That to some people would be making the case that to Bieber fame is more important than truth.
Clearly you come from a different media world then mine. But I have to say in all my years of working for the BBC I cannot think of a single documentary producer who would promote their own work if they thought it had been distorted for political end. One that involves bombing and killing people and making lots of profit. I can say the same for the photographers I work with.
What you are telling me is that if the New York Times did the same thing to one of your photos and you were ‘absolutely dismayed’, despite that, if there was enough buzz around the photo you would actively showcase it in the context you hate, as the first thing people see when they go to Maggie Steber’s website?
And if I said to you (hypothetically!!!!) I think you’re the type of person that probably would Maggie, wouldn’t most people rightly take that as an insult? But you’re arguing that infact it’s not an insult because that would be a normal thing for a photographer to do?
Wouldn’t you want to reclaim the photograph from the context in which it has been (ab)used, if not out of respect for your own work, out of respect for the person in the photograph.
You say, ‘If any person had asked Jodi in a nice and civil way, you might actually have gotten an answer. ‘
She was asked on the BBC WORLD SERVICE (a station I produce work for) and responded that “the way you read the photo and headline just depends on where you are coming from”. A slightly different version then the one you are giving us.
She also said,
“Whenever I go out I take responsibility because I know that my work is going to be published. I teach photography as well, and I really try and say to my students that no picture is worth fame or publicity … I try and stick by that.”
I think its one thing to defend a friend but another thing to try and stop debate by throwing in accusations like this is some kind of ‘witchunt’. To me that kind of accusation is the ‘hysteria’ on view here. If you follow the links below you’ll see just how ill informed a comment it is. We have consistently supported Jodi as a photographer (up until I visited her website a couple of days ago to find the TIME cover as the image chosen for the homepage)
Lots of people are dieing in Afghanistan. How that story is told and re-told is important. How that story is promoted matters. No?
‘Interested in hearing a thoughtful and immensely talented photographer? Then go and see Jodie Bieber talk at Host Gallery in London on June 30th. Should be a cracking event.’
‘Very strong set of portraits from Jodi Bieber on Time.com. Very dignified and respectful. Shocking in parts. Enlightening in others.’
‘I feel sorry for Bieber, she’s done a great job and cannot be faulted, but I feel this photo has been misused. Just as guns did not solve the problems of racism in South Africa, they will not solve the problems of woman’s rights in Afghanistan.’
Let me try this again:
First of all, I am publicly apologizing to Benjamin for my use and unclear choice of words in my rant yesterday.
Let me clarify….when I used the word YOU in my rant……it was NOT aimed at Benjamin. Benjamin has, through duckrabbit, created a venue for us to have these exchanges and discussions and he is not the target of my criticism.
I have apologized to him in private emails and I do so here again. I am grateful for his hard work in maintaining this site so we might have these dialogues. Ben has remained neutral throughout the discussion…at least until his response to my initial posting, which is understandable.
Again, Ben, not about you but yes, in reaction to some others. I also want to make it clear that I am not trying to throw cold water on the discussion, the debate, or anyone’s right to free speech, including my own. I just feel like it is a conversation that is going in circles without anything being accomplished, anything significant. It’s like
preaching to the choir and I don’t see beyond the discussion among photographers, what is accomplished. But I suppose the conversation has to get going before anyone would take any real action beyond commenting.
Beyond that, briefly, there has been much discussion in some circles since the Time Magazine cover came out.
Whether she makes a public statement or stand about Time’s use of her photograph is Jodi’s personal and private choice.
We cannot know the full backstory and that is the one main point I really wanted to make….that I have learned there
are many sides to a story and that without knowing them all, one cannot comment without risking unwarranted criticism.
And there has been abundant criticism and speculation.
I wish that the people who are the most outraged would use that energy and time to WRITE DIRECTLY to the editors of Time Magazine. I think this is putting your money where your mouth is and that the kind of debate stirred by the headline should be addressed directly to the editors. My strong reaction yesterday is mainly due to that…..if people feel so strongly, start a movement and take up the cause, whatever you feel that is.
Thank you and thank you, Ben, for posting this comment.