Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
April 14, 2009

Let’s Hear It For “The Prop Stylist”


Does this cover seem offensive at all to you?


  • Rightwingsnarkle

    That must be a rhetorical question.

  • Sam

    Um, yeah. The comparison between the travails of highly-paid execs that can’t find new highly paid exec jobs and homeless people is offensive.

  • Meredith

    It was immediately offensive to me –in a number of ways– because of the sign the man on the right is holding. He’s certainly selling his manhood, as if we care.

  • thomas

    It’s a pretty weird set up. I mean, people end up on the streets not primarily because they don’t have a job but because they have severe substance abuse issues, criminal histories, mental health issues or some combination thereof. When their families,various charitable organizations and govt. programs are exhausted they end up on a street corner with the cardboard sign, exposed to the elements and sort of under the default charge of whatever police car rolls by. I can see where they’re shooting to depict white collar people here as desperate and vulnerable, but you could say that unemployed people are being stigmatized in the shot as much as homeless people. I know folks who have lost their jobs recently and that doesn’t make them addicts or panhandlers.
    This is the sort of cover that would be dreamed up by somebody who has never been fired.

  • Karen H.

    in these times, people without substance abuse and mental health issues or criminal histories are winding up on the street.
    But in this case, I want to know why the manicurist, facialist, pedicurist aren’t mentioned. Maybe they’re grouped under “Groomer”…

  • thebewilderness

    Not so, thomas.
    The majority of people on the streets are there because of medical bills, poverty, and lack of insurance coverage for those medical bills.
    Check it out:

  • moistenedbink

    Yup, it’s offensive. Their take is unemployment and outsourcing is only a problem when it hits white collar worker and their fancy duds. No one cared when it was blue collar workers losing their manufacturing jobs or service workers losing their jobs to the downturn. Only when it hits the people pulling down 75K and more is it suddenly a problem.

  • Vulture Breath

    No, it doesn’t really seem that offensive, unless you include the verbatim credit. And it’s Fortune, so I don’t know why we’d expect Fortune to write a cover story, with models, about manufacturing or service job losses unless they reached some astronomical number. White collar people is Fortune’s market. Why would I be offended that they’re aiming at their market?
    Really, the only thing that’s vaguely offensive to me is the half smiling, shrugging, quizzical expressions of the two models on the left, as if they just got reprimanded for farting during detention, as opposed to just losing their jobs.

  • thomas

    I’m always the first to admit when I’m wrong, but all I’ll plead to here is being imprecise. The photo is aping street corner or freeway ramp panhandlers, not necessarily homeless people (who may be living with relatives) or people living on the street (who may not panhandle). There is no doubt that medical bills and poverty play huge roles in devastating individuals and families that are already vulnerable, but I’m sticking to my original remarks though admittedly in a very general way.
    It’s interesting that your link touches on mental health and substance abuse but doesn’t address at all the complications wrought by becoming entangled in our criminal justice system, deservedly or not. This can also be massively expensive in addition to being traumatizing and stigmatizing to individuals and entire families. Declining job opportunities aren’t solely the consequence of economic trends; being a convicted felon is no small obstacle in any market. I find it hard to believe it would be too statistically insignificant to even mention in any comprehensive study of abject poverty.
    All of which is far afield from the photo, which I think has a sort of attitude that comes from being vastly ignorant and just generally unsympathetic. Which is to say, the officially sanctioned attitude of corporate culture.

  • Dave

    No. Not offensive. Hyperbole. Shorthand for ‘desperation.’

  • Evan

    I’m kind of bothered by the Missing Black Woman Formation.

  • Martin

    brown man holds brown sign.
    White man, as mentioned by Meredith, is showing us his penis.
    White woman is holding “ME” in front of her sex.
    Individually, I would not have noticed anything, but all three of them together like that makes it look like the photographer is somewhat obsessed! I found this so bizarre that I missed the whole other aspect discussed, about the execs versus the homeless.

  • Hubris Sonic

    the womens lowered sign exposes her breasts and whats with the team diversity thing, i am surprised the guy on the right didnt look more like a tribesman.

  • Stella

    Yes, give that lady a pair of bunny ears and a nice fluffy tail and she’s hired.

  • Susan S

    The picture wouldn’t have been balanced if the woman’s sign had been in front of her breasts. I’m more bothered by the fact that the black man is positioned behind the other two making him appear smaller.

  • Apple

    I don’t think Fortune is in the business of “subtle.” This cover is blatantly mocking people they know nothing about – the chronic poor who are first to get laid off.

  • greentuna

    I am probably reading WAY too much into this picture, but I find it interesting that each person has a different sign. The African-American man holds the dingiest hunk of cardboard that looks like it would have been picked up off the floor of a grocer’s warehouse. You can still see the enormous circular imprints from the cans that looks slightly reminiscent of a bulls-eye. The woman’s sign looks like it has been hand-crafted from specialty paper or cardboard that looks decoratively “faux-ripped”. It’s very Martha. The last sign is the neatest – no dirty cardboard, no ripped edges. He’s all business and has a giant exclamation point to prove it!

  • Valkyrie607

    The lady and the black guy look solicitous and worried, while the white guy has quirked the side of his mouth downwards–he’s showing contempt, I think, or anger.

  • braidwood

    I don’t really find it offensive, but as a temp employee well below my usual pay range right now, with barely livable pay- surviving for the next 5 days on potatoes sort of livable- I find it depressing. I don’t want to go out and beg for a job.

  • jtfromBC

    Yes, I find this cover offensive.
    my sign reads,
    Bid on me – I’m for sale – I’m # 1

  • tailspin

    Hang in there, friend.

    • Lizette34

      are  you kidding me people? I’m an art director and i work on photo shoots all the time. This cover is merely this? A parody of begging for a job based on what you would see in the streets. It’s not a sexual thing, nor a statement about race or penis size. Get over yourselves. Jesus. It quite obvious that the art director said, “hmmm how can we make this cover relate visually to not having a job in an understandable way?” Oh yeah, have them hold card board signs like they are begging for a job. People get so bent out of shape for nothing.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes