Photojournalist Criticizes Newsweek‘s Cheney Photo Cropping

cheney.jpgToday, photojournalist David Hume Kennerly takes to The New York Times‘ Lens blog to criticize Newsweek for its use of one of his photos.

The photo in question, which appears in Newsweek‘s September 14 issue, shows former Vice President Dick Cheney cutting meat and is paired with a quote by Cheney from Fox News Sunday regarding CIA interrogators. “By linking that photo with Mr. Cheney’s comment and giving it such prominence, they implied something sinister, macabre, or even evil was going on there,” Kennerly said.

The photographer pointed out that was not the context of the photo he shot, and he claimed Newsweek — where he was formerly contributing editor — had cropped the photo in such a way that denoted darkness or evil:

“I took that photograph at his daughter Liz’s home during a two-day assignment, and was shocked by its usage. The meat on the cutting board wasn’t the only thing butchered. In fact, Newsweek chose to crop out two-thirds of the original photograph, which showed Mrs. Cheney, both of their daughters, and one of their grandchildren, who were also in the kitchen, getting ready for a simple family dinner.

However, Newsweek‘s objective in running the cropped version was to illustrate its editorial point of view, which could only have been done by shifting the content of the image so that readers just saw what the editors wanted them to see. This radical alteration is photo fakery. Newsweek‘s choice to run my picture as a political cartoon not only embarrassed and humiliated me and ridiculed the subject of the picture, but it ultimately denigrated my profession.”

Kennerly said the incident was just another example of why Americans have such a poor opinion of the media today.

In a response published on the blog under Kennerly’s essay, Frank J. De Maria, Newsweek‘s vice president of corporate communications, defended the magazine’s decision to crop the photo:

“We doubt any reasonable reader would, in David’s phrase, think something ‘sinister, macabre, or even evil’ was going on in that image as presented. Yes, the picture has been cropped, an accepted practice of photographers, editors and designers since the invention of the medium…Is it a picture of the former vice president cutting meat? Yes, it is. Has it been altered? No. Did we use the image to make an editorial point — in this case, about the former vice president’s red-blooded, steak-eating, full-throated defense of his views and values? Yes, we did.”

The choice of picture struck us as odd at first, but it’s not surprising that such a crop job would upset the photograph’s creator. However, we’re not sure it’s a blow to the profession, merely an example of the ability of a photo to convey an editorial opinion sometimes more effectively than any words can.

What do you think?

Essay: Chop and CropNew York Times

(Photo by David Hume Kennerly)