Annie Liebovitz slammed 'over dark' Ketanji Brown Jackson portrait

Annie Leibovitz accused of racism after legendary photographer is accused of repeatedly failing to light black female subjects ‘properly’ after dim Vogue portrait of SCOTUS Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson

  • Leibovitz proudly shared her two photos of the Supreme Court justice on Twitter this week after they were published on Vogue’s website
  • She was immediately inundated with complaints about how dark they were 
  • Some accused her of repeatedly failing to ‘properly’ light black stars 
  • They compared the images to other dimly lit photos by Leibovitz of Simone Biles and Viola Davis 
  • Leibovitz’s dark and moody style is well-known and was also how she edited portraits of the Queen and the Royal Family 

Famed photographer Annie Leibovitz has found herself in a racism row with critics of her dimly lit Vogue portrait of Ketanji Brown Jackson claiming it demonstrates her repeated failure to light black stars ‘properly’. 

Leibovitz proudly shared her two photos of the Supreme Court justice on Twitter this week after they were published on Vogue’s website.

She was immediately inundated with complaints from critics who said she’d failed to properly photograph Ketanji’s skin, instead making her look too ‘dark’. 

Some pointed to her past portraits of other black stars and public figures, and say she has a poor track record when it comes to showing them at their best. 

Annie Leibovitz’s portrait of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stirred controversy this week with some accusing her of failing to adequately light KBJ’s black skin 

Leibovitz proudly shared the photos on Twitter this week after they were published in online Vogue

The criticism of the photo was immediate on Twitter and by Friday, The Daily Beast was also condemning the portraits 

The Daily Beast ran a piece today by its Race & Identity Reporter with the headline: ‘Where Did Vogue Go So Wrong With Its ‘Historic’ Ketanji Brown Jackson Pic?’ 

Others slammed Leibovitz on Twitter. 

‘You just refuse to properly light dark skinned Black women, huh?’ one critic asked. 

‘All the resources in the world and so little thought invested towards lighting dark complexions,’ said another. 

‘It’s a pattern,’ fumed another, sharing links to Leibovitz’s portraits of Simone Biles for a different shoot. 

Others said they ‘quickly fixed’ the images themselves with a quick round of smartphone retouching to make them lighter. 

The Daily Beast cited black photographers who said they respected Leibovitz, but that a black photographer should have been given the job because. 

Others said Leibovitz had a pattern of failing to light black female subjects properly 

They used photos where black women were more vibrantly lit to try to show how they think Leibovitz had ‘failed’ 

‘For a magazine like Vogue and other top magazines…it would be nice to [use] a Black photographer. There are plenty of fantastic, capable Black photographers.’

Leibovitz’s fans however pointed out that her portrait of KBJ was no different to countless other dark, moody photographs in which the subject or subjects are white. 

She used a similar style of editing in her photographs of Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family, and when she photographed Scarlett Johannsen for Vanity Fair in 2005. 

Some also pointed out how Leibovitz would have inevitably been skewered for lightening KBJ’s skin and accused of whitewashing if she’d made the images any brighter or fairer. 

Similarly flat light can be seen in Leibovitz’s portrait of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in 2016

She has employed a dark moody edit on photos for years. Above, Scarlett Johansson in Vanity Fair in 2005

The photographer did not immediately return’s request for comment on Friday. Vogue has not commented. 

The magazine has long been dogged with allegations of racism. 

In September 2020, Anna Wintour sent an email to staff saying: ‘I want to say plainly that I know Vogue has not found enough ways to elevate and give space to Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators.’

It was at the height of the BLM movement, when companies across America were bending over backwards to avoid any allegation of racism. 

 Leibovitz with Head of Vogue Anna Wintour 

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