Dissertation Submission, Victoria Cope .pdf
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The Photograph, Media and Infamy.
BA Hons Photography
Assunta Del Buono
Blurring the lines between celebrity and infamy
Twerking and the Cult of Distraction
Celebrity Culture, Success through scandal
Figure 1 –TIME Magazine, 1st May 1995. [Magazine Cover].
Available from: http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19950501,00.html
[24th January 2014]. (Page 10)
Figure 2 – Porter, C 1995.
Firefighter Chris Fields removing infant Baylee Almon. [Photograph].
Available from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2347862/Oklahoma-citybombing-Mother-reunited-firefighter-hold-baby-daughter-iconic-Oklahoma-bombingpicture.html
[24th January 2014]. (Page 11)
Figure 3 – Newsweek Magazine, 3rd July 1995. [Magazine Cover]..
Available from: http://www.amazon.com/Newsweek-July-1995-TimothyMcVeigh/dp/B0025ETQO0
[24th January 2014] (Page 12)
Figure 4 – Rolling Stones Magazine, August 2013. [Magazine].
Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rolling-stonemagazine-sales-double-after-controversial-boston-bomber-cover-8741803.html
[24th January 2014]. (Page 14)
Figure 5 – Foxnews. 2013. Rolling Stone blasted for giving rock star treatment to
accused Boston bomber [Photograph].
Available from: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/07/17/rolling-stone-features-bostonbombing-suspect-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-on-cover/
[24th January 2014]. (Page 15)
Figure 6 – Rolling Stones Magazine, June 1970. [Magazine Cover]..
Available from: http://dachisgroup.com/controversy-on-the-cover-of-the-rolling-stone/
[24th January 2014 (Page 16)
Figure 7 – Blurred lines. 2013. [Music Video Still]. Diane Martel. Dir. US: Black Dog
Available from: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/Ui3GewK_ET4/Ud9rxMN5ziI/AAAAAAAAEtE/HeVGh6AMCdk/s640/robin-thicke3
[24th January 2014]. (Page 21)
Figure 8 – Google Analytics (2013) Miley Cyrus VS Chemical Attack Syria
Available from: http://benswann.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Cyrus1024x415.jpg
[24th January 2014]. (Page 23)
Figure 9 – Barnard, Neilson (2013) Cyrus and Thicke VMA performance
Available from: http://uk.eonline.com/eol_images/Entire_Site/2013726/rs_560x415130826094332-1024.Miley.Thicke.mh.082613.jpg
[24th January 2014]. (Page 25)
Figure 10 – Unknown (1997) Princess Diana Landmine campaign [Photograph].
Available from: http://princessioana.com/diana/0106_diana_gexp_591962t.jpg
[24th January 2014]. (Page 26)
Figure 11 – Outside. 1998. [Music Video]. Vaughan Arnell. Dir. UK.. [Music Video
Available from: http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/271/769/271769151_640.jpg
[24th January 2014]. (Page 28)
Figure 12 – Richardson, Terry (2013) Miley Cyrus in NYC #19 [Photograph].
[24th January 2014] (Page 30)
Figure 13 – Richardson, Terry (2013) Me and Miley in NYC #2 [Photograph.
[24th January 2014] (Page 31)
Figure 14 – Paul, Jean (2013) Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi “choking
[24th January 2014] (Page 33)
Figure 15 – Sunday People Newspaper, June 16th 2013. P.4-5 Artichoked
[24th January 2014]. (Page 34)
Figure 16 – Channel 4. 2013. Screenshot from The Taste Advert. [Video Still].
Available from: http://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/screen-shot-2013-1224-at-17-33-51.png
[24th January 2014]. (Page 35)
Figure 17 – Unknown. 2002. Michael Jackson holds baby over
Available from: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/12/31/article-006F9C478000005DC-215_634x876.jpg
[24th January 2014]. (Page 37)
Figure 18 – Los Angeles Times, June 2009. King of Pop is dead at 50 [Online].
Available from: http://www.themediareport.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/lat062609-a1-jackson.jpg
[24th January 2014]. (Page 38)
In the chapter “Photography and Celebrity” from his book Photography, Stephen Bull
discusses the “celebrity obsessed age” in which we now live. He said it could be
argued that the desire to see what other people looked like is one of the catalysts for
the invention of photography (2010, p.167). In relation to photography and fame, Bull
Over the last century and a half, photographs have played an evermore significant part in the creation of fame in the first place; indeed,
this has become so much the case that, in the 21st century, a form of
celebrity can be gained purely through images themselves. (2010,
While fame through the reproduction of images has formed the basis of my
investigation, I am keen to explore the transgression of already established
celebrities through photos and the role in which infamy plays in photography. In
Celebrity/Culture, Ellis Cashmore wrote that the “peculiarity of celebrity culture is the
shift of emphasis from achievement-based fame to media driven renown” (2006,
p.7). In relation to this, Chapter one will focus on the way in which the representation
of infamy has changed in photography and within media. To be infamous is to be
renowned for a bad quality or deed and personally I feel the line between infamy and
celebrity are being blurred by western media. I will explore this issue by comparing
the ways in which the Oklahoma city bomber, Timothy McVeigh was represented in
print with the celebrity treatment Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received.
Chapter two will explore the social change we have experienced in western media
where as a society we are far more interested in celebrity news and images than
current affairs. Sociologist Chris Rojek wrote in Celebrity about the concept of the
cult of distraction saying “celebrity culture produces an aestheticized reading of life
that obscures material reality and, in particular, questions of social inequality and
ethical justice” (2001, p.91). In response to Rojek’s ideas I will discuss the MTV
Video Music Awards, an annual event held in America which celebrates the best in
the music video medium from over the previous year. Many writers and critics were
outraged over the coverage the award ceremony received such as Rick Robinson
who spoke of his outage in an article “What You Should Have Been Looking At While
Miley Was Twerking” which can be found on the River City News site.
Finally in chapter three I will explore the concept of transgression in relation to
already established celebrities having their fame boosted by scandal and notoriety.
Cashmore wrote “Notoriety is a resource for those who crave fame” (2006, p.144)
and I will explore this statement by looking at images of three different celebrities’
transgression in images. I wish to explore is how some celebrities can remain
famous despite committing a crime or gain notoriety from an event which they have
used in their favour to further their own fame.
Chapter one: Blurring the lines between celebrity and infamy
In June 2000, David Copeland was sentenced to six life terms after he carried out
terrorist attacks in London that led to the deaths of three people, including a
pregnant woman and injured 139 others. Following the arrest and trial of Copeland, it
became apparent how much he desired becoming famous and the means in which
he was willing to go to become publically well known (Rojek, 2001 p.143). He openly
spoke about wanting to become famous, saying to police “If no one remembers you,
you never existed.” (Copeland as cited by Rojek 2001, p.143). Nicknamed ‘the Soho
nail bomber’ by the media, Copeland was fascinated by his own celebrity and over a
six month period spoke to a reporter from The Mirror who he believed to be a female
pen pal; “He writes approvingly when his photograph is printed on the front page of
newspapers. His letters are concerned to establish his singularity and integrity and to
confirm his celebrity status in the sight of the British Public” (Rojek, 2001, p.146).
Using online articles, key texts such as Celebrity by Sociologist Chris Rojek and
ideas from part of comedian Russell Brand’s Messiah Complex tour, this chapter
aims to explore how infamy can be gained through the reproduction of images and
how these images are used by the media. Infamy is when someone becomes wellknown as the result of a notorious event, bad quality or deed (Houghton Mifflin
Company, 2009). In relation to Photography, because of how technology and media
have developed, I feel infamy can be successfully attained quickly through the mass
reproduction of images. I am keen to explore what it says about the society in which
we live when images of infamous individuals are reproduced and shared and how
notoriety and infamy are achieved. The first half of the chapter will primarily focus on
Timothy McVeigh, the bomber of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma
City. McVeigh was featured on the front cover of weekly news magazine Newsweek
and attempted to depict himself in a more positive light in a bid to change public
opinion of him (Rojek, 2001 p.156). I will also discuss the issue of TIME magazine
that McVeigh was featured on the cover of but as a hard faced convict. The second
half of the chapter will investigate two front covers of Rolling Stone Magazine; the
first from July 2013 which featured Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the
second from June 1970 which featured Charles Manson on the cover. The images
featured in these magazines are important to investigate as they show the shift from
a political stance to offering a celebrity status of convicted criminals. While people
called for the boycott of these issues of Rolling Stone magazine and retailers
refusing to sell future copies of the magazine, both issues were successful; the cover
featuring Manson won a National Magazine Award (Bazilian, 2013) and the cover
featuring Tsarnaev doubled the average sales per issue of the magazine from the
previous year (Saul, 2013). Rojek wrote that “Without doubt, Celebrity is a widely
desired characteristic of modern life, but the chances of gaining it via achieved
celebrity are limited (2001, p.148).” Personally I feel that in contemporary society,
there is a fine line between being a celebrity and being infamous.
At 9:02am on April 19th, 1995 security guard and ex-US army soldier Timothy
McVeigh parked a rental car that contained a bomb which would kill 168 people
including 19 children and injured several hundred others (CNN, 2007). After
detonating the bomb and reducing a third of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to
rubble, McVeigh got into a getaway vehicle and drove away. McVeigh was arrested
90 minutes later but not in connection with the bombing, but because an Oklahoma
State Trooper pulled him over for a missing license plate. By the time the FBI had
realised who was responsible on April 21st, McVeigh was already being held (Ottley,
n.d.). What came as a shock to Americans was the fact that the individual
responsible was a home-grown terrorist and may be accountable for the different
types of reception McVeigh has received. I will discuss two magazines McVeigh has
been featured on the cover of; an issue of Time magazine from 1st May 1995, and
the issue of Newsweek from July 3rd 1995. Both Newsweek and TIME magazines
are American weekly published news magazines.
The photograph TIME magazine chose to use on the cover of the 1st May 1995 issue
shows McVeigh as he is being escorted by police to his trial while dressed in an
orange jumpsuit (see figure 1). He has hardened features, a serious expression and
isn’t making eye contact with the camera. The cover story simply says “The face of
terror” and it is clear TIME magazine are taking a political stance to how they are
representing McVeigh which differs greatly to the celebrity stance Rolling Stone
magazine chose to represent Boston Bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev but I will
discuss this later. In an article published on CNN’s website, McVeigh said he was
stoney faced as due to his army training he was methodically searching for snipers
as he believed a civilian or member of the government would assassinate him but
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