Several critics on Twitter (including New York Times national picture editor Morrigan McCarthy) took shots at the dimly lit images of Biles inside and out by famous photographer Annie Leibovitz — and suggested that Vogue should have used a Black photographer (and hire more Black photographers in general), or at the very least find someone who better understands Black skin tones.
A few were fiercely defensive of Leibovitz, however, describing her as a painterly photographer who usually knows exactly she’s doing. The photos illustrate a profile of Biles that includes the dark story of Larry Nassar, the longtime USA Gymnastics doctor now serving a life sentence for the serial sexual abuse of athletes, including Biles. She spoke candidly of the debilitating depression that gripped her as the Nassar story emerged, and her anger that gymnastics officials didn’t protect the athletes.
But others following Biles’ story in Vogue yearned for photos of her bright, powerful movement — and more flattering photos — that increased awareness at the fashion mag might have delivered.
I adore Simone Biles and am thrilled she’s on this cover... but I hate these photos. I hate the toning, I hate how predictable they are, I hate the social crop here (wtf?) and I super hate that Vogue couldn’t be bothered to hire a Black photographer. https://t.co/az0gLugdzS
— Morrigan McCarthy (@MorriganMcC) July 9, 2020
Simone Biles deserved better than Annie Leibovitz bad lighting. pic.twitter.com/I7SvmCmKJP
— Britni Danielle (@BritniDWrites) July 10, 2020
— Polly Irungu 🇰🇪 (@pollyirungu) July 9, 2020