Photographs can be one of the most cherished items we possess, but they can also be things that we wish never existed. This list looks at the latter and the damage that some pictures have had on 10 notable careers.
Mike Dukakis was the Governor of Massachusetts from 1975–1979, and the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988. During his presidential run, Dukakis was criticized for being too soft on defense. To prove that he took his country’s defense very seriously, someone had a brilliant idea to get a picture of him in a tank. The plan was for the picture to become his key image for the campaign. However, it didn’t quite turn out that way. The now famous photo op was such a disaster that the Dukakis tank picture was used in television ads for George H.W. Bush’s campaign, as evidence that Dukakis would not make a very convincing commander-in-chief. “Dukakis in the tank” is still used to describe a backfired public relations campaign.
Interesting Fact: In 1986, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been photographed in a similar situation riding in a Challenger tank. For some reason, even though it was somewhat out of character the image was effective and helped her reelection prospects. You can see the picture here.
In 2002, Shane Gibson was a member of the, then ruling, Progressive Liberal Party, and was elected to the Parliament of the Bahamas as the Immigration Minister. In February 2007, after the death of Anna Nicole Smith, newspapers published photographs showing the famous model and Gibson in bed together embracing. Even though both were fully clothed, the photographs fired up a controversy because it appeared that a sexual relationship between the two had expedited Smith’s application for permanent residency in the Bahamas. Gibson then resigned because of all the questions and rumors surrounding the nature of his relationship with Smith. When Gibson stepped down, he denied any wrongdoing and apologized to all persons who might have been offended by anything that he might have said or done that was perceived wrong.
Interesting Fact: Soon after Anna Nicole Smith died, the most popular taxi tour in the Bahamas was called (what else) The Anna Nicole Smith Tour. The sightseeing included the Hospital in Nassau where her son Daniel died, the home where she lived with Howard K. Stern and her five month old daughter, the Church where her funeral was and Lakeview Memorial Gardens where she and her son are buried.
Michael Phelps is often credited with being the greatest swimmer and one of the greatest Olympians of all time. He has won 14 career Olympic gold medals, the most by any Olympian. In 2009, a photo by the British tabloid News of the World showed Phelps using a bong and smoking marijuana. Following the publication, an investigation followed but, due to lack of evidence, Phelps was not charged. He was however suspended from swimming competitively for three months, and Kellogg announced that it would not renew his endorsement contract. The cereal company stated that his recent behavior is “not consistent with the image of Kellogg.” Cereal deals are usually worth around $250,000, but it is believed that Phelps’ deal was much more. Phelps apologized, said he demonstrated bad judgment and that his behavior was regrettable.
Interesting Fact: Many of Kellogg’s cereal boxes, that were intended for a food bank, with Phelps’s picture on them disappeared after the he was dropped by Kellogg. It was confirmed that some were kept as souvenirs and others were showing up on e-Bay. Other Phelps endorsed companies like Subway, Visa and Omega (note the watch in the photo) believed Phelps was no different than other people of his generation who experiment or make youthful mistakes, and kept him on as a spokesperson.
Millard Tydings was a United States Democratic Senator from Maryland, from 1927 to 1951. In 1950, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed that there was Communist penetration into the federal government and military. Tydings responded and investigated by forming and overseeing the Tyding hearings. After the hearings he published a report denouncing McCarthy and his Communist claims as a hoax. When Tydings was running for re-election, McCarthy’s staff distributed a picture of Tydings with Earl Browder, who was the former leader of the American Communist Party. In reality, Tydings had never met Browder before and the picture was actually a composite of a 1938 photo of Tydings (right) and a 1940 photo of Browder (left). The image is believed to have contributed to Tydings’ defeat in his bid for reelection. You can see the pictures used to create the composite photo here.
Interesting Fact: Millard Tydings is the grandfather of actress Alexandra Tydings who is best known for her role as the Greek goddess Aphrodite on the popular TV series Hercules, and on its spin-off, Xena.
In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first African- American to be crowned Miss America. Ten months after Williams was crowned, she received an anonymous phone call stating they had nude photos of her. The photos were taken in 1982, by Photographer Tom Chiapel, when she worked as an assistant and makeup artist for Mount Kisco, New York. According to Williams, Chiapel wanted to try a new concept of silhouettes using two female models. He photographed Williams and another woman in several nude poses with some in simulated sexual positions. Williams believed the photographs were private and had been destroyed, and never signed a release permitting the photos to be used. Days later, the publisher of Penthouse, Bob Guccione, announced that his magazine would publish the pictures in their September 1984 issue. When the photos hit the news stand, sponsors threatened to pull out of the upcoming 1985 pageant. Williams then resigned after pressure was put on her by Pageant officials. The title then went to the first-runner up, Suzette Charles, who is also African-American.
Interesting Fact: Williams is officially recognized today as “Miss America 1984” and Suzette Charles as “Miss America 1984b”. The photos netted Bob Guccione a huge profit of $14 million. Williams filed a $500 million lawsuit against Chiapel and Guccione but eventually dropped the suit to avoid further legal battles, choosing to move on with her life. Williams is quoted as saying, “the best revenge is success”.
Kate Moss is a British supermodel and has appeared on over 300 magazine covers. On September 2005, the Daily Mirror ran a front page and inside photos showing 31 year old Moss snorting cocaine at a West London recording studio. The images were captured during a Daily Mirror undercover investigation, which revealed that Moss, who repeatedly denied using cocaine, was an avid user. She reportedly prepared up to 20 lines of coke on the back of a plastic CD and snorted five lines in 40 minutes. Within a short time after the photos were published, Moss lost major modeling contracts with several international companies including H&M, Chanel and Burberry. Moss quickly issued an apology but stopped short of admitting drug use and said “I take full responsibility for my actions.” In June 2006, after an investigation, British police dropped the charges for lack of evidence because photographs of alleged drug-taking are not admissible evidence in English courts.
Interesting Fact: Apparently the damage to her modeling career did not last long. In 2007, she came in 2nd on the Forbes top-earning models list, earning an estimated £6,500,00.00 ($9 million) in one year.
Chris Brown is a very popular American singer and actor. On March 5, 2009, Brown was charged with assault and making criminal threats. The police report did not name the female in the incident but stated that a woman had “suffered visible injuries”. Sources identified the alleged victim as his girlfriend and fellow R&B singer, Rihanna. A leaked photograph from the Los Angeles Police Department, obtained by TMZ, revealed Rihanna had sustained visible injuries. After the photo was released, many of Browns fans were disgusted and outraged. Following his arrest and the release of the photo, several of his commercial ads were suspended and his music was withdrawn from multiple radio stations. Brown also withdrew his appearance at the 2009 Grammy Awards. On June 22, 2009, Brown pled guilty to the felony assault. In exchange for his plea, Brown received five years probation and was ordered to stay fifty yards away from Rihanna, unless at public events, which then will be reduced to ten yards.
Interesting Fact: In a 2009 interview, Brown said that it is “tough” for him to look at the famous photograph released of Rihanna’s battered face, which may be the one image to haunt and define him forever.
Gary Hart was a United States Senator from Colorado and was the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 presidential election. Soon after he announced his candidacy for President, rumors began to circulate that Hart was having an extramarital affair. Hart responded to the rumors by daring the press, and said “Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored.” Previously to that meeting with the press, two reporters from the Miami Herald observed a woman who was identified as Donna Rice coming out of Hart’s Washington D.C. townhouse. The paper was able to publish the story on the same day as Hart’s challenge. Hart claimed that the reporters had no knowledge of exactly when the woman arrived or why she was there. Two days after that story, the Herald obtained a photograph of Rice sitting on Hart’s lap in Bimini aboard a yacht, ironically named Monkey Business. The celebrity tabloid National Enquirer immediately published the photograph and within five days, Hart dropped out of the Presidential race.
Interesting Fact: Because of the scandal, Donna Rice lost her job as a marketing representative for a pharmaceutical company in South Florida. She refused many opportunities offered to her after the scandal, including an appearance in Playboy magazine.
Edison Chen is a very popular Hong Kong-based Chinese Canadian film actor, singer and pop icon. Chen has a total of 16 albums, and has appeared in 28 films. In January 2008, Chen was involved in a widely publicized sex scandal when sexually explicit photographs of himself and several actresses became widely circulated on the Internet. The pictures were taken from Chen’s laptop by a technician who was repairing it. There were approximately 1,300 pictures, which included actresses Gillian Chung, Bobo Chan, Cecilia Cheung and many others. Mr. Chen had originally claimed that the photos were faked but then admitted to taking the photos. Chen then held a press conference where he said that he was ashamed and was leaving show business indefinitely. Following his apology Chen attended a rehab center in Utah, for “sex addiction.”
Interesting Fact: Due to the photo scandal, the Google search engine rankings for 2008 resulted in Chen’s Chinese name being the number 1 search term in China.
The photo above was taken in 1968, and is one of the most famous images of the 20th century. The picture was taken by photographer Eddie Adams and won the Pulitzer Prize. It is also included in the 15 Incredible Historical Photographs list. Many have seen this photograph but most are not aware of the full story behind it. The man on the left shown executing a prisoner is South Vietnamese national police commander, General Loan. Before the execution it was reported that the prisoner had been the captain of a terrorist squad that killed the family of one of his deputy commanders. After shooting the prisoner, the general walked over to a reporter and said, “These guys kill a lot of our people, and I think Buddha will forgive me.” When the photo was shown on television and appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world, it was seen as an act of savagery and symbolized an unjustified war. Three months after the photo was taken, General Loan was severely wounded and taken to Australia for treatment. There was such an outcry against him that he was moved to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington DC. During the fall of Saigon in 1975, he asked for American help in fleeing with his family but was ignored and had to escape with his family in a South Vietnamese plane. Gen. Loan, whose right leg had been amputated, settled in northern Virginia, where he eventually opened a pizzeria restaurant. Loan was then forced into retirement when his identity was publicly disclosed. Eddie Adams (the photographer) stayed in touch and recalled that on his last visit to the pizza shop, he had seen written on a restroom wall “We know who you are, fucker.”
Interesting Fact: Eddie Adams said this in a Time magazine interview: “The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American soldiers?'” When General Loan died of cancer, in 1998, Adams praised him and sent flowers with a card that read, “I’m sorry. There are tears in my eyes.”