WATCH: OJ Simpson 1994 Murder Trial Documentary, 'The Untold Story (Pt. 1)
Black History 1994: The O.J. Simpson Criminal Murder
Case Trial - 'Time' Cover Deliberately Darkened Mugshot
O.J. SIMPSON'S TRIAL BY PHOTOSHOP: During his 1994 criminal murder trial case, actor and former sports celebrity OJ Simpson appeared on the covers of the June 27, 1994 editions of both Time and Newsweek magazine simultaneously. Controversy exploded after Time (above right), deliberately darken his mugshot using graphics program Photoshop.
JUST HOW FAR SHOULD a magazine go in reporting the news? This question was raised back in 1994 during
the OJ Simpson murder trial, when Time magazine deliberately altered his mugshot. By Ben Arogundade.
ON JUNE 27, 1994, Time and Newsweek magazines published the same cover image of actor and ex-sports celebrity OJ Simpson, who was on trial for the murder of his wife Nicole. But there was one glaring difference between the two cover portraits. While Newsweek used the unaltered mugshot photo of Simpson supplied by the Los Angeles Police Department, Time digitally doctored the image for their cover — darkening Simpson’s face in what some commentators claimed was a deliberate attempt by the magazine to demonise him. The photo manipulation of Simpson rendered his blackness both unequivocal and menacing, in a murder case already infused with race — with Simpson, the black defendant, accused of murdering his blonde white wife.
TIME AND NEWSWEEK COVERS CONTRAST
The association of dark skin with innate evil has a long history, dating back to the early Christian Fathers of the third century. At the same time, within contemporary culture, dark skin is viewed as less attractive, particularly within the black and Asian communities, where large quantities of skin-lightening creams are sold every year.
Time’s controversial cover would probably have gone unnoticed if Newsweek’s version had not appeared simultaneously, allowing readers to instantly compare the two mugshot executions. When the cover was being put together, the bosses at Time gave the photograph to graphic artist Matt Mahurin to “interpret”. “I wanted to make it more artful, more compelling” he suggested.
The use of Photoshop to manipulate portraits of celebrities has been questioned ever since the technology was first invented in 1990. Fashion magazines in particular have been criticised for using it to create false ideals of beauty, while in 2007 a nationwide debate took place in the American media after a heavily Photoshopped image of country singer Faith Hill was published alongside the original, un-retouched photograph.
PHOTOSHOP MANIPULATION BIAS
In Time's case, the magazine fielded a barrage of criticism from all quarters about its manipulation of OJ Simpson's image. Their journalistic ethics were called into question — instead of unbiased reporting of the news, they were guilty of creating their own inauthentic version of it. Time’s managing editor during the period, James R. Gaines, stated that he regretted doctoring the cover photo, and that “no racial implication was intended, by Time or by the artist.”
In a rare about face, the backlash led to the company pulling the edition from the newsstands and replacing it with a revised cover. Time’s newsstand sales are small compared to its subscriber base, and so the original cover stayed in circulation throughout homes and offices — inadvertantly becoming a collector's piece.
THE RAW MATERIAL: Ex-football star OJ Simpson's original mugshot used in the Time and Newsweek 1994 covers.
*THE OJ SIMPSON MURDER TRIAL CASE ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase “OJ Simpson photo manipulation” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the phrase, “OJ Simpson murder trial” each month.
*All figures for “The OJ Simpson Murder Trial Case According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.
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