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January 4, 2010

Annie/VF’s Tiger Trash

VF Leibovitz Tiger Woods.jpg

I’ve got three words:

Naked, black(ened) thug.


Here’s the pollyanna quote Ms. Leibovitz offered up to rationalize this “raw” photo of Woods taken before the scandal broke — T I G E R’s face out-of-focus to further dehumanize him; the view extending salaciously down toward his short-and-curlies.

“Tiger is an intensely competitive athlete—and quite serious about his sport. I wanted to reveal that in these photos. And to show his incredible focus and dedication.”

Gimme a break. Try:

Tiger is an intense freak show right now — and I’m seriously lucky these photos reveal what a sport he’s become. Since I’m intensely competitive (and as stretched as VF is for the benjamins), I’m forsaking my dedication to score some huge bank off this incredible focus.

The photo might well have been compelling before Woods’s life, and facade caved in — if VF truly dared push on the man’s pristine image — but at this point, its publication is only cheap and punitive.

I’m looking forward to your analysis.

Update 1/7/09: Just to put a date on the photo shoot, the NY Post reports that this photo, and the others published in this month’s VF, had been in Annie Leibovitz’s file for four years.

  • DennisQ

    Perspiration all over his body, including his neck – but none on his brow or any other part of his face. And why is he wearing the hat?
    Also . . . I’m having trouble interpreting the background. On the left side it looks like a concrete wall, but on the right side it looks more civilized.
    Both of these effects – the absence of perspiration and the abrupt transition of the background from raw concrete to some sort of doorway – are contrived, the result of manipulating the image. The navel, and the dimple above it, seem dark and mysterious, suggesting the jungles of Africa, home of large, savage cats. And the prominence of the muscles, both the forearms and the biceps, suggest an erection.
    These elements didn’t just come together, even the ones that weren’t manipulated after the picture was taken. Did Annie Leibowitz know that a story about the real Tiger Woods was about to break?

  • yg

    who works out wearing a knit cap? did she make him put it on? she’s turned him into O.J.

  • clf

    With all due respect, I think you’re being the Pollyanna here. Tiger Woods and his handlers have controlled his image and manipulated the press for years. What would you have Vanity Fair run, another headshot of Woods wearing a Nike golf shirt and a cheesy smile?
    If this were any action movie star or rock star on the cover of VF in the same pose/lighting/etc. you would not be complaining. Could we not imagine Bruce Willis in the same sort of black watch cap and bare chest on the cover of VF? How about Eminem? The dark/saturated style of photography here is a hallmark of VF and Conde Nast. It’s nothing nefarious. Liebowitz shot the Queen of England in the same kind of lighting. (Take a look at the last couple of year’s worth of Gourmet magazine. You’ll see they did the same thing to the food.)
    A quick perusal of VF covers shows that the bare chest treatment is reserved for only the biggest of stars like Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and David Beckham. So Woods should consider it an honor. Check out Beckham by Annie Liebowitz in July of 2004 Now imagine the same photo, only with Woods’ face.
    Beckham and Woods are bigger-than-life sports stars, thought of as the best in their field. The only reason that Woods’ gritty photo is “shocking” is because it is so at odds with his cultivated public persona. If this were a football or basketball star nobody would even blink.
    This photo does exactly what good photography is supposed to do: Allow us to see a subject in a different light.
    The fact is we are learning that Tiger woods DOES have a “thug” side (btw, people who live in LA or New York and are under 40 don’t consider “thug” a pejorative term). This photo allows us to view Tiger as sexual being. And yes, it does show us his “dark side.” But considering that his carefully cultivated asexual-racially undefined-robotic public persona, this gritty photo actually humanizes Woods. Certainly any urban young person would think this photo is “hot.”

  • billyjoe

    Annie Leibovitz is $24 million in debt. How fortuitous that she had these photos and a relationship with Vanity Fair prior to the Tiger sex scandal. This issue will be a huge seller, and its only the beginning of 2010.

  • pcalvin

    It has a prison yard gym look to the image: lighting and color cast, drab background, knit cap, free weights, expression… It certainly doesn’t look like Gold’s or LA Fitness.

  • jonst

    live by the image….die by the image.
    Oh, and I’m shocked, shocked, that some capitalist rag of magazine wants to make money and is willing to portray people in less than flattering (to most of us anyway)ways.
    It’s all just part of the show. This is part and parcel of the ‘creative economy’ some people keep offering Americans….as the jobs march off shore.

  • acm

    I don’t think it’s sweat. if you take a second look, he just seems to have some small bumps on his neck and under his right breast — perhaps some sort of reaction to playing in the heat year after year or something…
    am also intrigued by the backdrop, which screams “woodshed” to me, with all the “pool boy tryst” connotations, as well as American rustic manliness . . .

  • Toba

    Maybe she was going for the Jenkyll and Hyde tint to the man since the recent events unfolded.I agree with the prison yard observation. Personal demons and what not thrown in perhaps.

  • marc sobel

    He would have had as much problems now if he had just stayed caddying instead of getting all uppity and playing in a game that not for his kind. I think that’s the point VF is trying to make.

  • donna

    Bad boy hot. If Tiger plays his cards right, he can be hotter than ever.

  • mon_oeil

    It is interesting how Tiger’s African ancestry comes out in this description as “the jungles of Africa”. Why not “the jungles of Thailand” the homeland of his mother. As we critically engage the visual, one must also be careful about stereotyping, as if Joseph Conrad’s Africa as the “Heart of Darkness” has not been debunked.

  • mon_oeil

    Knit hats are turning into a fashion statement among the notorious, in a recent post we may recall that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab also wears one and the commenters described the “criminality” of his appearance. See:

  • cgd

    This whole thing says nothing good about the American public… Fixation on celebrities (both subject and photographer), need to frame every story in extreme good vs. evil terms…. Yecccchhhhh. Please make it stop.
    I’ve never had any interest in this jock character, but if there’s any positive in this farce, it’s good to know he’s very, very human… absolutely, typically human.

  • lq

    Just imagine the impact of the picture if he had ‘owned’ the pose, instead of looking like ‘is this what you mean?’
    As to the background, it looks like a wood/old barn paneled wall with an expensive molding around it.
    At any rate, the usual VF treatment, trying to sell magazines off someone’s grief/fame/good fortune.

  • thomas

    It is not possible to be avaricious and to have a soul. It’s one or the other.

  • Jarred

    Love this blog, but….it sounds like even though he had a wife and 18 women on the side, you expect people to still respect him, just because he happens to be black? And those that don’t still respect him, you are going to subtly call those people racists? Did the Tiger Woods propoganda machine have THAT much impact on this blog owner?
    A cheat is a cheat, regardless of colour. And if a photo helps to blow apart the carefully crafted public persona of a cheater, so be it.

  • mon_oeil

    Former President Bill Clinton was never constructed as thug and neither is Roman Polanski, who committed a crime, and is in so-called house arrest in the beautiful snow-covered mountains of Switzerland. I will repeat from other posts on which I have commented: The Black male is overdetermined as deviant. So when he is constructed that way he is read as such.
    Interesting as we are talking about being respected. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has been campaigning to have the remains of philosopher/writer Albert Camus placed in the paradise of notable French souls, the Panthéon. A lot of respect for a incorrigible womanizer.

  • Stella

    Leibovitz has been peddling celebrity skin for as long as I can remember. I think lq got it right. If Tiger refused to put on the stupid hat and pull his pants down, we might have really seen his “incredible focus and dedication.”
    I’m sorry, all I can see is another pinup being exploited for profit.

  • Nadine

    All he needs is the ‘thug life’ tattoo. He’s also completely uncomfortable with the shoot. Co-incidentally there’s a South African slang meaning to raw we used to use as kids, which means embarrassment. ‘Like my mother caught me and I was like raw’- first thing I saw when I read it (LOL).

  • ggb

    Turns me off – totally.

  • clf

    The comments here about knit hats show a readership that is truly out of touch with current fashion and urban youth culture.
    Also, comments about the photographer’s personal financial woes are irrelevant and basically just a cheap shot. This photo is not that far afield from what Annie is known for.

  • Norm Drabble

    As a photographer Annie Leibovitz is a one trick pony. Liebovitz arrives on scene with a large crew to make up the subject, set up the lighting, props, camera, etc. She sells the subject on a provocative pose and clicks the shutter.
    Liebovitz provides sizzle, not a steak.

  • yg

    yeah, you see a lot of urban youth, country club, knit cap sporting golfers. tiger’s known for his street cred.

  • Bruce Amiata

    Camus was French! Not one to have played by Puritanical American rules. According to the great wikipedia: Camus “argued passionately against the institution of marriage, dismissing it as unnatural.” (It didn’t stop him from marrying, though, twice).
    And this image of Tiger Woods makes him appear to be in a prison yard, with that knit hat and the weights adding to the impression. Very under-class-ish. Gah.

  • Zoey & Me

    Let the media take these “cheap shots” and make money off a really talented golfer. Someone in PR will find Tiger and re-package him as America’s Bad Boy and elevate him to wealth he could never have imagined from AT & T or any other sponsor that dumped him. Wait and see.

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