Vogue Slammed for Hiring Annie Leibovitz for Simone Biles Cover Instead of Black Photographer

Fashion magazine Vogue has come under fire over the cover of its August issue. The magazine featured world-renowned gymnast Simone Biles, and critics are upset at both the style of the images and the fact that Biles was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and not a Black photographer.

The profile of Biles was published four days ago, and almost immediately the images and choice of photographer came under attack.

Criticism came from a broad spectrum of voices, including prominent photographers and photo editors like the New York Times National picture editor Morrigan McCarthy, and Black Women Photographers founder Polly Irungu.

The general consensus among critics seems to be that the lighting does Biles a disservice, washing out her skin tone and making the images look muted, and that Vogue should have hired a Black photographer both from an ethical standpoint and because they would better understand how to light Black skin.

One muted photo in particular, showing Biles against a golden background in dim lighting, has drawn the fiercest criticisms and harshest comparisons.

“Her skin look absolutely horrid,” wrote one user on Reddit. “You can have muted tones without her skin looking like she’s just been embalmed. The colors are terrible. If some average Joe who you didn’t know you’d also say that they f***ed up the skin. Melancholic doesn’t equate to ashy skin.”

Some photographers joined in the criticism, even posting re-edits of some of the photos. Others, however, came to Leibovitz defense. Supporters of the shoot pointed out that the article attached to these photos—a somber profile that covers the impact that the Larry Nassar trial had on Biles, her family, and her career—called for muted images.

They also defended Leibovitz by pointing out what may have been her artistic inspiration for these shots, and saying that it’s absurd to claim that Annie Leibovitz somehow “doesn’t know what she’s doing” when it comes to lighting any sort of skin tone.

“Annie has shot Kendrick Lemar for Vanity Fair, President Obama for Vanity Fair, Michelle Obama for Vogue, Chris Rock, Denzel, Viola Davis, etc,” wrote one photographer on Reddit, “but yea get a black photographer because she has no clue what she’s doing. /s”

Neither Vogue, nor Leibovitz, nor Biles have responded to the controversy as of this writing.