Who Shot it Better? Stephen Colbert: Miller Mobley or Michael O’Neill

Who Shot it Better? Stephen Colbert: Miller Mobley or Michael O’Neill

When photographing a comedian for a magazine cover, the final product better be damn funny. Rubber-faced satirist, Stephen Colbert, provides pretty good source material, and he generally seems up for whatever. Thus, we’ve come to expect the absurd.

For her first Fashion Issue as editor-in-chief, Laura Brown selected Colbert as one of five subscriber-only covers, which also featured more conventional fashion picks like Marc Jacobs and Selena Gomez. But we’re fans of the Colbert selection. Let’s take a look!

Miller Mobley was tapped for the cover honors. Mobley’s portraiture work usually adopts a subdued color palette, but he went pretty conventional for the cover. A single, big keylight illuminates Colbert against a gray background. Contrasty post production. Of course, the photo stuffed in his pants is the major sight gag. Brown says, “My idea for him was a centrefold — a cross of Burt Reynolds and Paul Ryan.” The statement alone makes me chuckle.

The inset features are no less ridiculous with Colbert sporting a suit fashioned a muscle T and hulk-esque trousers. Pretty sure designer Thom Browne is selling that look for about a million dollars.

Eight years earlier, Michael O’Neill photographed Colbert in advance of the Vancouver Olympics. Colbert looks no less ridiculously in a skintight racing suit fitted with a striped tie and glasses. The set and lighting is a little more sophisticated with a rim light coming from camera left and a plexiglass floor that fades into the graduated background, which was almost certainly added in post (SI loves to change background colors for covers).

Verdict: I wanted to go with the cover that made me laugh more irrespective of the technical qualities of the photograph because let’s be honest, it’s Colbert that makes the photo. But I find both images to be ridiculous. So I’m calling it a draw, and we shall meet another day, Stephen!

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Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter. He co-hosts the "I Love Photography" podcast on iTunes.

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