How (Not) to Photograph Wall Street's Lady CFOs

JPMorgan Chase's new CFO, Marianne Lake, is interviewed by Dealbreaker's Bess Levin in the June issue of Marie Claire. The headline for the story: "Wall Street's Woman on Top."

If the picture looks a tad familiar, it may be because you remember another Wall Street CFO posed similarly. (The Marie Claire article and photo aren't online. We owe this version of the picture to Business Insider's Julia La Roche, who described Lake as "stunning.")

The picture bears a striking resemblance to the one that introduced The Wall Street Journal's readers to another Wall Street CFO—Erin Callan of Lehman Brothers—in 2008.

The backgrounds of the two are quite different. Sure, both were named to their posts in the midst of a crisis—the emerging credit crisis for Callan, the London Whale crisis for Lake. And both were investment bankers earlier in their careers. But that's where the résumé similarities end.

Callan was, famously, a lawyer who lacked an accounting background. Before becoming finance chief, she had never worked in a finance department. Lake is a chartered accounting who worked for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and as a global controller in finance and business management for JPMorgan during the height of the financial crisis.

But when it comes to profiling the two executives, it seems the forces of journalism have trouble telling them apart. Or at least the photo editors feel the need to present female Wall Street CFOs with a narrow set of visual tropes.

  • Both portraits are full body shots, which is not how you see most Wall Street executives photographed.
  • Callan shows leg but wears long sleeves; Lake is sleeveless but wears long pants. The effect echoes: reveal some skin, but not too much.
  • Both wear prominent wrist jewelry.
  • Both shots feature floor-to-ceiling windows, though the ceiling isn't in view (symbolic?).
  • Both CFOs are posed in front of the windows.
  • Both look directly at the camera (which is not how Jamie Dimon, for example, is usually shot).
  • Footwear: Each sports au courant shoes for the period (Callan's spike heels speak 2008; Lake's wedges are more fashionable now).
  • Hair: Each is styled to trends. (Callan's precise, razored-edge bob was smart then; Lake's "rock 'n' roll waves" is one of the biggest looks this year).
  • The expression on the mouth is almost precisely the same. Not quite a smile but hinting at one.
  • Each is shot so that her jaw is slightly off-set from her neck, giving the impression of a longer, thinner neck.

Note to photo editors: There are probably a number of ways to compose a photograph of a female CFO. We're sure you can find at least one alternative.

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