Esteemed Vogue photographer Annie Leibovitz is under fire again for her latest portraits of a Black woman. Last week, the former Rolling Stone journalist shared her pictures of Ketanji Brown Jackson—who made history by becoming the first Black woman on the Supreme Court—posing by the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
However, 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. Leibovitz has been critiqued for her past portraits of dark-skinned Black women including her 2020 Vogue cover images of Simone Biles as well as her Vanity Fair portraits of Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o.
Evette Dionne, Executive Editor for Yes! magazine, quote tweeted Leibovitz’s photos and stated: “Annie Leibovitz and Anna Wintour will one day pay for the crimes they’ve committed against Black women photographed in Vogue.” Others chimed in by saying: “I’m begging you to light black women better her skin tone is not grey.”
The Guardian’s Tayo Bero powerfully asserts that “Leibovitz’s photographs are what happens when Blackness is seen through a white gaze incapable of capturing its true beauty” and that “Black women can be photographed beautifully in their most natural state without making their features look sad, washed out and completely unnatural.”
It wasn’t until 2018 when Tyler Mitchell became the first Black photographer to shoot the cover of Vogue (the magazine has been around for 130 years). There is a plethora of Black talent waiting to be called on to photograph Black subjects, so why is Leibovitz constantly being regarded as the default when its been proven time and time again that she simply can’t deliver?
These publications need to start listening to Black women when it comes to how we need to see ourselves represented.