DKNY appears to have “borrowed” images without permission from the popular “Humans Of New York” Facebook page after its photographer Brandon Standon declined their offering price, and now the brand is backtracking in a Tumblr post and denying it used the pictures after being turned down.
The DKNY Humans Of New York controversy began showing up in my own Facebook feed this morning, as angry fans of the page on my Friends List began sharing the post from the Facebook page calling out the fashion brand for their unauthorized use of the photos.
It would appear many people’s friends did the same thing, because DKNY responded rapidly to the brewing social media brouhaha. According to Humans Of New York’s Stanton, the fashion brand approached the photographer — who chronicles life in New York via spontaneous street portraits — and requested to use the pics for the sum of $25,000.
The Humans Of New York page, which has more than half a million followers, posted the following message:
“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.”
Within hours, DKNY had responded on Tumblr with an offer to donate the $25,000 originally offered — and not the $100,000 requested — to the Bed Stuy YMCA. The brand said:
“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 strong visual program. We apologize for this error and are working to ensure that only the approved artwork is used.”
While we commend DKNY for owning up and donating the money to kids in Bed Stuy, it does seem a bit stingy considering the fact the Humans Of New York photographer initially rejected the offer based on his value of his own work. And while Stanton later said he was happy to get any response from DKNY, we can’t help but point out that any person who tried to shoplift from one of their stores and then offered to pay a portion of the retail price might not be given the same courtesy.