Tyler Shields Finally Speaks About Controversial Kathy Griffin and Beheaded Trump Photo

Controversial photographer Tyler Shields has finally spoken out about his now-infamous photo of Kathy Griffin holding the bloodied head of President Trump.

Throughout his career he’s never been afraid to ruffle feathers. Some of his most renowned images include the 2010 portraits of Lindsay Lohan brandishing a gun and Glee star Heather Morris with a “bruised” eye in reference to domestic abuse just a year later. He even collected blood from 20 of his celebrity friends for an exhibition piece.

But the biggest controversy of recent memory came when a photo he took of Griffin surfaced, showing the latter holding a prop of the decapitated head of President Trump. The backlash led to a string of cancellations for Griffin, with many, including Trump, speaking out against her.

And now, five months later, Shields has finally broken his silence about the photo:

The day that we realized this was going to be really crazy — I don't remember if it was the day after, or a couple days later—I called Kathy and I said to her: ‘Listen, this happened with the Dixie Chicks, if you remember with the George W. Bush thing, and people were burning their albums, and driving over their albums or whatever.’

Kathy was in a tough mental place and I said, 'Kathy, this happened to them and they thought they were over, and they had that song and it wasn't an apology, and it ended up being their biggest song over, but it took time.’

Even Griffin seems less apologetic these days, having more recently being quoted as saying: "Stop acting like my little picture is more important than talking about the actual atrocities that the President of the United States is committing."

You can read the full interview at Architectural Digest.

Lead photo by Gerd Altmann.

[via Architectural Digest]

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Patrick Hall's picture

What a weird way to try to play down the bad PR that was going to come out of it. Truth is, yeah, the Dixie Chicks are done and have been done since that day which is a shame because they were actually really good musicians and songwriters. In today's country music atmosphere, I would love the DC to come back!

Greg Rutland's picture

There is a Dixie Chicks cover band and they're playing at a local brewery this Friday. It's only a 9 hour drive to Florence, Alabama from Charleston, SC. And you'll find better Italian food here than you found in Italy...

Patrick Hall's picture

ha, yeah I know Florence...I went to school in Birmingham. And yes, our grocery stores in America have the greatest variety of food anywhere in the world (except maybe specific southeast asian and hispanic foods). I have no doubt a great cook could make some amazing Italian food in Alabama :)

Anonymous's picture

"I don't want people to know what I'm actually like. It's not good for an actor."
~ Jack Nicholson

Patrick Hall's picture

I think a lot of them simply believe the general public DOES agree with them on everything and somehow voicing their opinions will increase their brand.

I will say this though, it's easy to talk about "Celebrities" as if they are completely different people than you and I, but with social media and every day normal people being followed more and more, it's easy for people like you and I to also wade in those waters. I know I've been guilty of it (or sometimes just trolling the waters) and I think all of us need to be reminded of the repercussions that can come out of anything we say and post online.

davidlovephotog's picture

Was a dumb idea to try and be controversial for attention. Failed. How do you explain that to kids? "Oh, she doesn't like the president and her career is in the toilet so that's just her wishing his head was cut off."

LA M's picture

No politics...sheesh

michael buehrle's picture

he just wants to get his name back out in the public. whatever, Kathy is still a talentless tool.

Little Faith's picture

Hey it's the first original thing this guys has done. Congrats on not ripping off other artists for once.

Anonymous's picture

I didn't understand it one way or the other. I get that a lot of people don't like Trump but when you overstate your opposition, as that photo did, the medium becomes the message and doesn't serve anyone's interest. Nobody talked about what the president was or wasn't doing...just the photo.

Aleksey Leonov's picture

STOP posting politics here! WHY? Why you need politics here? That's not the website you want to see ugly politician faces on.

David Penner's picture

Well Im done supporting this site. Seems like everytime I get a chance to go on here there is some sort of political post. Before someone says "they most likely dont care if they lose one user" ill just leave this here.

I purchased ptw3 and couldnt even get through that without them having somethibg to do with politics. Not sure if the behind the scenes have been posted on youtube but its pretty obvious they hate Trump after watching it.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think we all need to just chill out a bit here. Photography is an art form that helps express all sorts of messages including politics. I think we do a great job balancing the types of posts we have here which include education, personal projects, gear reviews, controversial images, interesting uses of photography/technology, etc etc. I personally find it super interesting to hear from the photographer who was responsible for one of the most viewed photographs of 2017. Once you get past the idea of gear and techniques, at least for me, the most interesting thing is the purpose, idea, and reason behind creating art and photographs.

Of course I'm appreciative of you supporting Elia and FS with PTW3 but besides the behind the scenes, the 12+ hours of that course share nothing about politics or personal opinions at all. It's 100% based on photography. I won't disclose the political affiliations between Lee, Elia and I but I will tell you that throughout that entire production we were all arguing heavily about politics and all 3 of us are in completely different political camps.

For me personally, I feel like America is in trouble because simple opinions and open discussion are starting to become so highly politicized that we as a group of people are incapable of talking about anything. IMO the most offensive thing about PTW3 is Lee and my dislike of Italian food as a whole (we did have a few great meals). I'm honestly watching the BTS episodes as they are publicly released so I don't know what else is coming but I think all the Trump stuff was during the actual inauguration.

Again, thanks for your support but I cannot stand behind the idea that every post on FS is political and has nothing to do with photography. This post specifically has EVERYTHING to do with photography.

Anonymous's picture

I call BS on your lament over open discussion. Time and again you've proven to pass off your opinion as the only acceptable option (including saying that you "rightly prefer" one method of photography over another), demean others (including flat-out stating that your point was "to poke fun" at people who shoot Polaroid), and are unable to admit when you are factually wrong (including your inaccurate assessment of the original intent of the14th amendment only pertaining to slaves). And that's only in conservation with me, I can't image what else you've said.

On that cultural appropriation article, you recently stepped into an interesting debate on the sociological differences between cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation and its impact on artistic expression by pasting obnoxious screen grabs of Google definitions, completely missing the fact that a sociological term is different than dictionary definition, and ignoring the fact that many in the discussion (including myself) actually agreed with your assessment on cultural appropriation, but were attempting to find more nuanced understanding of the situation than just calling it "batshit crazy".

It's not some leftist conspiracy to shut you up. And normally I'd just ignore your posts, but there are 2 things stopping me 1) you post constantly and are nearly unavoidable on this site, and 2) you more often than not have some really constructive and knowledgeable things to say on photography and technology and yes, even on politics.

You have a right to say what you want, but you better be prepared to be called out on what you say. And when you make blanket statements, act like a petulant child who'd rather win an argument on a meaningless point than engage in respectful dialogue, you're going to get push back. So either continue the way you are and understand that responses might affect your sensitivities, or reevaluate the way in which you engage people on certain topics. But don't blame others and think that they're stifling your ability to hold an open debate. To paraphrase The Dude, sometimes "you're not wrong, you're just acting like an a**hole."

I'm sure you'll quote sections of my response out of context and try to save face by focusing on an insignificant portion void of the actual point I am trying to make (as per your normal MO). Or maybe you'll ignore this post. But seriously, I encourage you to take this to heart and try not to be so prideful and stubborn sometimes. That's what open dialogue depends on.

Anonymous's picture

Welp I tried. Here's the impasse. You've officially become a waste of my time.

You can pull up previous comments in your accounts notification setting; its easy. The quotes were from the New Polaroid film post and the Tomb Raider poster articles. Take a look if you wish.

BTW someone opened a new account with your name and is apologizing for things you wrote. I naively thought you may have maned up and done this yourself and responded to them. Apologies. I should have listened to others and recognized any reasonable debate with you is futile.

I'll miss you, Bob, it's been a blast. Good luck on your journey finding the truth.

Anonymous's picture

No it isn't. I also mentioned you a bunch in those posts. Unless you consider yourself not reasonable? Oh man, Freudian slip...

Anonymous's picture

A downvote? But it's very important that you agree with me!

David Penner's picture

Im not say every post is about politics but it does seem like there is a bias. It seems like you cant go on any decent website anymore without political talk. Photographers should be united but the political posts do more to create a divide in the community. Id like to make it very clear that Im not a Trumper. Im not against him either though.

The behind the scenes videos were pretty good though. I can relate to Elia when he was freaking out in the desert about there not being a shot. Ive been there before where i dont even want to pull out my camera since I know there isnt a decent shot. Lol

Im not going to tell you guys how to run your site. Im just saying its pretty obvious that Im not the only one that would like a place they can go where politics dont need to be argued about. There are enough othe projects that can be talked about if you want to discuss ideas and thought process that are more inspiring. To me after the gear talk and the technique talk we should be inspiring each other. The interviews with Elia about how him and his wife were stuggling and pretty much broke are relatable to many people. What are the issues many of us go through? How did other photographers overcome those issues? Lets talk about that!!

Motti Bembaron's picture

"Stop acting like my little picture is more important than talking about the actual atrocities that the President of the United States is committing"

What a drama queen...It was a bad and tasteless photo and if you still cannot see it, there is a slight problem with your moral compass.

Patrick Hall's picture

Eh, I see your point but I think the technical side of photography is only half the reason for an image being good or bad. I used to believe a photograph had to be technically perfect to be a great image but I think the content itself is 50% of the final output.

I see this all the time with perfectly executed portraits where the lighting and retouching are flawless. Yet the subject matter isn't very interesting or the pose is awkward, etc etc. On the other side, some of the most widely viewed images (and commercially viable images too) are basically photo journalistic snapshots where the lighting and technical elements were not even considered but an amazing moment was captured. Those images have become iconic even though they were just shot in overcast outdoor lighting, or shot at f8 with the focus a little off (esp the film days).

For what this photograph is, I don't think it's a "bad" photograph. I think it is kind of tasteless and I wouldn't personally take it, BUT I do support freedom of speech and believe both Kathy and the photographer have the right to take this photo. But to say it's a bad photography, eh, it's one of the most viewed and criticized images of 2017 so it can't be that bad since it clearly strikes a nerve.