Annie Leibovitz Bashed for Simone Biles' Vogue Photos, Fans and Critics Call for More Black Photographers

Illustration for article titled Annie Leibovitz Bashed for Simone Biles' Vogue Photos, Fans and Critics Call for More Black Photographers
Photo: Craig Barritt (Getty Images), Mike Coppola (Getty Images)

Simone Biles, who is often lauded as the greatest gymnast to ever tumble on Earth, opened up to Vogue for its August cover story, where she discussed training for the (as of now) 2021 Olympics during a pandemic, her frustrations with USA Gymnastics organization’s negligence around sexual assault and much more.


The cover image was shot by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, which featured the 23-year-old in an orange leotard over a golden yellow background, which showed off her enviable back muscles. Leibovitz also photographed Biles for a series of smaller images. Many are criticizing Leibovitz for what they see as bad lighting technique, which flushes out Biles’ rich skin tone. This resulted in calls for Vogue to hire more Black photographers in order to avoid this issue.

“This @Simone_Biles shoot was great but again, I’m disappointed at how many professional photographers don’t know how to treat dark skin,” Twitter user Nowlen Webb wrote on the social media site in response to the photoshoot, accompanying edits of the same photos that he says he color corrected in “less than 10 minutes.”

“I think what’s important to keep in mind is that although currently, we’re talking about Vogue, this is historical,” he continues. “Photographers over time have neglected accurately capturing dark skin tones; this even goes even back to the creation of color film itself.”

There is a way to shoot people of color on film that accentuates their melanin that Leibovitz doesn’t always employ. Several Twitter users pointed out that her photoshoots with people of color in the past resulted in their skin looking dull on camera. However, others have acknowledged that Leibovitz’s style as a photographer often utilizes a darker editing style that doesn’t work for everyone. Nevertheless, one Twitter user (we believe) hit the nail on the head with their observation.


“...Her job is to make [her subjects] look good,” they wrote. “She can photograph Black people using her dark style, but still make them look good and vibrant.” We definitely agree here.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.


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Amateurs shouldn’t critique art.