The bruised Mark Zuckerberg on this issue’s cover? That’s a photo-illustration created by Jake Rowland, a New York City–based artist known for his composite portraits. For this image, Rowland mashed together an existing image of Zuckerberg with a photograph of a hired model—made up to look battered—whose features resembled that of the Facebook confounder and CEO. Nicholas Thompson, editor in chief of the magazine and coauthor of the story, wanted something that matched the article’s thesis. Zuckerberg is in the middle of a tough fight, and he’s been hit like never before; but now he’s changing his strategy, in a good way, and he’s confident he’ll win.
Here’s what Rowland said about the opportunity:
“When WIRED called and offered to pay me to beat up Mark Zuckerberg I jumped at the chance. They wanted a portrait of a battle-torn Zuckerberg, but the only problem was he was not going to be there for the shoot. This required building a composite portrait. This particular image contains elements from four different photographs. Two were stock photos, two were shot by me in New York of models made up to look bruised and bloodied, and only one of the photographs was an actual image of Mark Zuckerberg. The final result is sort of a flawless digital collage of these separate elements, a composite, that is a blend of fact and fiction, right down to the expression on his face.
“This type of photograph is pretty much par for the course for me as an artist. The people in my photographs are rarely what they seem to the eye. I’ve been working on the line between photography and digital technology for the better part of 20 years now. This made the opportunity to work with WIRED especially gratifying and a perfect fit.
“I was also specifically inspired by the subject and our current moment. Those lines—between fact and fiction, document and forgery, what’s “real” and “fake”—have never been so slippery and difficult to detect. The manipulation of information and imagery online, especially via social media, and in digital media generally, is being used to warp our perception (and influence our politics) in unprecedented ways. The digital is spilling over into the physical world at an accelerating rate in glaringly obvious ways—and in ways we probably can’t even consciously perceive yet.”