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Mo Gelber’s photo (published with the permission of the artist)

Photographer Mo Gelber captured this rather romantic moment outside the Manhattan Criminal Court on August 16. He entered the image into the Project Imaginat10n contest organized by director Ron Howard and Canon. The contest has an adorable URL, www.longliveimagination.com, and the 10 photo winners will be selected to serve as the inspiration for a short film series.

Gelber’s photo is obviously quite powerful but the contest administrators let the photographer know that they needed written permission from the subjects in the shot in order to qualify.

The crafty photog took to the interwebz to identify the two naughty culprits. After posting the image on his Facebook page, he tracked down the woman in the photo, Alexis Creque, who explained that her boyfriend in the photo is still behind bars. It turns out that the couple were arrested after a nighttime graffiti spree — awwwwww, adorable.

The couple has since agreed to sign Canon’s forms but there is a hitch, according to Gelber, who posted the following on his Facebook page (edited for clarity):

Now Ron Howard is tweeting about the story of the photo. I tried to send him a message via twitter but my tweeting skills are somewhat limited.To be politically correct let just say I am Twitter challenged.

But should he come across my Facebook page, I thought he should know that everyone in my photo really liked the photo. They wanted to sign the release form and get the photo in the contest but the language of the release form which was written by a group of lawyers representing the contests sponsor, Canon Cameras, was too harsh and vague.

If the release form just said it gives the contest the right to show THIS photo only, they would have signed. But it had clauses of perpetuity not only for this photo but it said that Canon would have exclusive rights to photograph them forever and that nobody else would ever be allowed to photograph them.

What that essentially means is that Canon would own them forever. If one of the parties wanted to do modeling in the future and were to be photographed lets say for a magazine ad, the magazine, the photographer, and the model could all be sued by Canon.

A lawyer representing one of the people in my photo had a conference call with the lawyers from Canon. They asked for clarification of that very harsh clause in the release form.The lawyers from Canon played hardball. They said we don’t have to explain the clause to you, nor do we have to amend it in any way to make you feel more comfortable.Either you sign it as it is written, or you don’t sign it.

I am very surprised because anytime in the past when I have had issues with my Canon cameras or lens, their customer service dept., which is amazing, always went out of their way to resolve the problem, and as quickly as possible. Canon is known for being very friendly and doing whatever they can to help their customers. But in this case, it was a group of lawyers who dropped the ball.

Moral of the story: lawyers can ruin anything, even a great photographic moment, not to mention the fairy tale ending for a photographer who was at the right place at the right time.

I guess we’ll all still have the photograph, though you know we all wanted to see the short film that would’ve came out of this moment, no?

UPDATE: The man in the photo, according to a source, is street artist/graffiti writer Cassius Fouler, whose work “Visions Scmisions, All Damn Day” (below) is currently on display at the Woodward Gallery Project Space on Eldridge Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

2 replies on “How Lawyers Ruined a Great Photograph [UPDATED]”

  1. graf in lower manhattan seems so quaint now, compared to the 80s/90s. almost like tennis with john macenroe at the country club—hanging out with the bad boy but all safe and shit.

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