Restoring my Faith in Humanity

Graphic Design

Sometimes things happen and you have to pause and think about how disgusting our world and the people in it can be. Yesterday I had a situation happen at work that made me do one of those double takes. Without going into details sometimes you just have to wonder what runs through people’s minds. That is the start of the story, the start of my day. Then I came across something on facebook that disgusted me even more, especially being an artist.

I’ve talked about Brandon Stanton before, he is the creator of a blog called Humans of New York. He’s a photographer in New York City and he takes some awesome, inspiring, hilarious, thought-provoking (the list could go on) photos of the humans of NY. His blog is very popular and I follow him on facebook. So yesterday I came across some newfeed from Brandon with some pretty shocking news

(taken directly from Brandon’s status) I am a street photographer in New York City. Several months ago, I was approached by a representative of DKNY who asked to purchase 300 of my photos to hang in their store windows “around the world.” They offered me $15,000. A friend in the industry told me that $50 per photo was not nearly enough to receive from a company with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. So I asked for more money. They said “no.”

Today, a fan sent me a photo from a DKNY store in Bangkok. The window is full of my photos. These photos were used without my knowledge, and without compensation.

I don’t want any money. But please SHARE this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp. I’ll let you guys know if it happens.

As an artist, I was outraged. To think that a company like DKNY would stoop so low as to steal. I think that Brandon had every right to ask for more money- DKNY makes millions and they were undervaluing his work. Then again the did have they right to decline his counter offer. They did not have the right to then steal his photos however. Within hours, this post got tens of thousands of likes, shares and comments (and that’s separate-tens of thousands for each)- it spread like wildfire.

Naturally DKNY had some cleaning up to do, they posted this on their facebook in response:

(taken directly from DKNY’s status) Since its founding in 1989, DKNY has been inspired by and incorporated authentic New York into its imagery. For our Spring 2013 store window visuals we decided to celebrate the city that is in our name by showcasing “Only in NYC” images. We have immense respect for Brandon Stanton aka Humans of New York and approached him to work with us on this visual program. He declined to participate in the project.

For the Spring 2013 windows program, we licensed and paid for photos from established photography service providers. However, it appears that inadvertently the store in Bangkok used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program. We apologize for this error and are working to ensure that only the approved artwork is used.

DKNY has always supported the arts and we deeply regret this mistake. Accordingly, we are making a charitable donation of $25,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn in Mr. Stanton’s name.

To this Brandon responded

$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA. I know a lot of you would like to have seen the full $100k, but we are going to take them at their word that it was a mistake, and be happy that this one had a happy ending. Thanks so much for your support, everyone.

Knowing how valuable your own work is, I personally think Brandon should have taken more measures. Many comments on his first status suggested he get a intellectual property lawyer (Brandon also stated in a thanks that he had received many facebook messages from intellectual property lawyers wanting to help), a lot of people told him to sue them. I may not agree with the casual response to this wrong but I certainly respect Brandon as a person (even though I’ve never met him, although I would very much like to). It’s sad that with all the DKNY has they were only willing to give up 25k.

Here’s where my faith in humanity is restored. Not only did Brandon not sue DKNY or not ask them to reimburse him for the misuse of his photographs- he asked that the money be donated to a charity. AND he felt so bad about the missing 75k he set up a fundraiser himself to raise the remaining money with the help of HONY fans. This was his following status

(taken directly from Brandon’s status) As most of you already know, yesterday I discovered that a large amount of my photographs were used without permission by DKNY in a Bangkok window display.

In response, I publicly asked DKNY to make a $100,000 donation in my name to the Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA, so that deserving kids could go to Summer Camp.

They made a $25,000 donation in my name. That really made me happy. I went to bed last night thinking about all the kids who’d be going to summer camp.

But then I started thinking about the kids who wouldn’t be going to summer camp. And I thought: “You know what, wouldn’t it be awesome (and fun) if we made a $75,000 donation?” That way, a bunch more kids could go to summer camp!

So help HONY make a $75,000 donation to the YMCA. That would bring the grand total to $100,000 and provide 300 deserving kids with an entire two weeks of summer camp. These camps give kids such a wonderful, affirming experience. For certain kids, from certain neighborhoods, it could very well be the best two weeks of their life.

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to give goodies this time. Our Hurricane Sandy Fundraiser tapped me out. But I think there’s enough heart in this group to raise the full $75,000. I’m really counting pennies right now, but I’m going to throw in $100 myself.

(The Hurricae Sandy Funraiser note refers to another fundraiser he set up after the devastation from the Hurricane effected the New York area that raises $318,530 which was $218,530 over the original goal) So far this new fundraiser has raised $36,500- which is 11,500 more than the multi-million dollar company, DKNY put out, I might add.

So for all those artist out there that know how valuable your intellectual property is and the measures you have to take to protect your work, or for all those people that just need a little restored faith in humanity, consider donating a small (or big.. whatever floats your boat) amount of money to send some deserving kids to summer camp. You can donate here.

Thanks Brandon, for restoring my faith in humanity.

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