Jill Greenberg, Monkeys and Sharks

(UPDATE: Adds more links, cover shoot video.)

Who did I wake up to find under my bowl of Frosted Flakes this morning but the Incredible Being of Lightness herself. Does this mean she has jumped the shark?

Maybe, maybe not. More inside.

Note to this site's perfectly sensible foreign readers:

"Jumped the Shark" is slang for when anything has clearly reached its peak, and is on the downslope. It's from a "Happy Days" TV episode in which the writers had a lead character jump a shark on a motorcycle (correction, on water skiis) in a desperate ploy to save plummeting ratings. More here.


Jill "Dingo Made Your Baby Cry" Greenberg has not been without notice on this site. She has what anyone would at least have to admit is a very interesting lighting style. And she has worked it to the point to where she is practically the Aaron Jones of the day.

As for her lighting, she can imitate Jill Greenberg better than perhaps anyone else on the planet, if that is a good thing. But as for her range, well, I would compare it to the number of facial expressions mastered by Keanu Reeves in his movie career.

(Okay, that's not fair. Keanu has mastered two facial expressions and is said to be working on a third.)

But now Ms. Greenberg is getting written up in family newspapers, aimed at the general public. Or at least The Washington Post, who had a two-page photo spread and interview in honor of her monkey show at the National Academy of Sciences. Usually a newspaper getting around to writing about something being hot is pretty much the death knell.

Her Washington Post piece, by the numbers:

9: Total number of her photos used in the Arts section today.

6: Number of photos which contained monkeys. I thought it was seven at first, but one turned out to be of American Idol host Simon Cowell.

75: Percentage of a page dominated by the lead photo. Seriously, Pulitzer Prize Winners do not get that kind of space.

9,000: Approximate percentage of dot gain on the photos in the spread. They looked pretty rough. This photo, bounce-fill-flashed and adjusted, does not do the monkey-howl-inducing repro justice. Welcome to the world of newspapers, your Jillness.

IMO, she is could go either way. One direction being Annie, Avedon and the like -- the fabric of American culture -- and the other being Fonzie, suiting up to jump. Nothing against the quality of the photos -- they are stunning. But any specific technique, so heavily used, is always in danger of suddenly going out of style. Witness Aaron Jones and the Hosemaster craze of the late '80's.

It will be interesting to see just how long the ride lasts.

At least a little longer, apparently, as shown in this Fast Company magazine video of a recent cover shoot. I did notice the way she just lights the backgrond from behind the paper, to keep things clean and wire-free. (Yes, I'm so pathetic.)

Slideshow: You, Imitating JG
Washington Post: Greenberg Feature
Jill Greenberg's Website
YouTube: Fonzie Jumps the Shark (Thanks, Brian!)


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