Recently, the internet has been ablaze with a photo taken by celebrity photographer Tyler Shields showing comedienne Kathy Griffin holding the fake severed bloody head of President Trump. The two teamed up to put this image out there and while Kathy Griffin's brand of comedy is definitely not suited for everyone, this time, she seems to have offended folks on both sides of the aisle. She has even been fired from hosting this years' New Years Eve broadcast for CNN.
Let's take a look at the photographer behind this image. Never heard of Tyler Shields? Well, that's my point. I've written about Tyler Shields, "The Bad Boy of Photography", in the past. I fully feel that artists hold responsibility for their work mostly because their work holds social capital. In the same way that art can inspire us, motivate us, and open floods of emotion, it can also spark anger, and incite or endorse violence. In Tyler Shields' case, his brand of art runs rampant with misogyny and the glorification of violence against women. He makes zero apologies and tends to double down on his images.
For this particular shoot, Griffin and Shields brazenly talked about the possibility of jail time, etc. meaning, they knew what they were doing. In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly Shields states:
Kathy said to me, “I’m not afraid to make a statement and I’m down to get political if you want.” It wasn’t like, “We have to do something political.” She’s not afraid of it and I’m not afraid of it. I was like, “Let’s do it.” It was, how far are you willing to go, and she was willing to go pretty far. [...] There were a bunch of different ideas thrown around and then, I was like, “This is the one we gotta do.”
After a severe backlash, Kathy Griffin not only walked her behavior back, she damn near begged for a DeLorean to take her back in time and change course on this ridiculous idea.
Something I've noticed is how she's taking very public heat for this image while he gets to sit back and retain his "bad boy" title. Both Griffin and Shields hold equal weight in this collaboration. And while some may say that she's the more recognized of the two, he's no run of the mill photographer. He has a portfolio of celebrity images from Lindsey Lohan to Demi Lovato. The exception here seems to be that since he already creates highly controversial "art" that glorifies violence (primarily violence against women), he gets a pass. Essentially, he's already a jerk, so what can you do.
I think he needs to spend some public time in the heat. He needs to be splattered on mainstream media right along side Griffin. He needs to be held accountable for his work. Anything short of that and we're basically slaying Griffin while shrugging our shoulders to his behavior and saying "Boys will be boys."