A photographer’s picture of a woman mourning at an indigenous gravesite in Canada is up for license on Getty images, angering the subject’s daughter and sparking a bit of a heated debate in our community in the process.
The unfolding tragedy of residential schools in Canada amounts to nothing less than the genocide of the native peoples of the country. Often forcibly removed from the parents’ custody, children were relocated to so-called residential schools where many of them died and were subsequently buried in mass graves. The subject of the photograph, Loretta John, is visiting a memorial to the mass grave discovered in Kamloops where 215 bodies were found.
Captured by photographer Mert Alper Dervis of Anadolu Agency, the photograph can be licensed from Getty for about $USD 470. To be clear, Sunset John, Loretta’s daughter, has no problem with the photograph itself; however, she and her mother believe licensing it is a form of profiting from their tragedy.
“She wouldn’t have mind it being taken; but she just doesn’t like that it’s being sold, and that they’re exploiting off our trauma,” Sunset John told CKPG.
As expected, Getty responded to the controversy with a statement which reads in part:
“As you have noted, the discovery of unmarked graves of indigenous children at Canadian residential schools is newsworthy and of public interest. We understand that the woman in the image may be uncomfortable with how her personal experience, and what she may have regarded as a personal moment, has intersected with the public interest but it is undeniably newsworthy and that is why the photographer from Anadolu Agency made the images and we licensed them to our client news outlets.
This image is available for editorial use only, meaning that the persons depicted within have not provided a commercial release, it cannot be used for commercial or merchandising use and may only be used in connection with events or topics that are newsworthy or of general public interest.”
CKPG notes that, while the women can sue Getty, they are unlikely to succeed in court. As Getty notes above, and as would likely be detailed in a court ruling, there is an argument that the editorial usage of the photographs documenting a historical moment does have editorial uses.
What is your opinion of the photographer licensing and selling this kind of photograph on Getty? Let us know your thoughts on the ethics of this kind of thing in the comments section below.
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Whenever I have intruded photographically on someone else’s emotional moment without their permission and even in the public interest, I have taken great care to ensure the shot is arranged so that the subject is not recognisable. I feel that to do anything less would be grubby.
Yeah, tend to agree with that.