The latest TIME cover has kicked up a bit of a response on twitter, and I am really enjoying it.
Here is the cover, Martin Schoeller’s portrait of Jamie Lynne Grumet and her son:
And here are some reactions:
Now, it’s pretty obvious what’s happening here. TIME is presenting a deliberately provocative photo, and people are being provoked. This is nothing new. But I’ve found the reactions — mostly dirty jokes, of course, along with a smattering of indignation — to be really refreshing.
Most of the time, lately, when people got excited about anything related to photography, it’s to do with things like digital manipulation, intellectual property, Instagram, etc. Many of these discussions fail the 1978 test. And even the ones that don’t are usually still really boring.
So, I just want to point out some things about a lot of the reactions I’m seeing to the TIME cover:
- People are paying attention to what’s in a photo, not what tools were used to make it
- People are making judgments about the content of an image, its concept, and the editorial process that led to its being put on newsstands
- People are thinking about how a photo will differentially influence the later life of subjects in it
- People are thinking about the moral agency of those responsible for creating and publishing a photo
Also, the jokes folks are making about this are way funnier than the jokes people make about Instagram. That’s a non-trivial win. One of the worst things about a boring controversy is enduring the boring jokes it engenders.
If you’re interested in the actual photo itself, TIME has a short post about it on its “Lightbox” blog. Not a ton of meat there, and it doesn’t come near addressing the decision to use such a bait-y image. The best part is that it includes this photo of reference images used in planning the shoot:
I am particularly fond of the middle image in the lower row. I would love to know how these images were gathered, and to what criteria, but, sadly, that is also not covered in the post.