DKNY's 25k Photo Mistake

Brandon Stanton

Social media played watchdog on Monday when a fashion empire was forced to issue an apology to a street photographer for using his work without permission.

According to photographer Brandon Stanton, founder of the website "Humans of New York", he was approached by a representative from DKNY who was interested in purchasing 300 of his photos at $50 a pop to hang in store windows worldwide. When Stanton tried to negotiate the $15,000 fee, the fashion company declined and the two parted ways.

Then, things got weird. According to a message Stanton posted on his Facebook page: "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."

Brandon Stanton: The store in Bangkok.

DKNY immediately responded, posting a statement to the Humans of New York Facebook page:

"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."

DKNY declined to further comment but Stanton told Shine, "The Bedford-Stuyvesant YMCA now has an extra $25,000 to help deserving kids go to summer camp. Of course, $100,000 would be even better, but it's hard to be upset about that outcome.  For the sake of ending this, I'm going to cease my speculation and take DKNY at its word that the photos were used unintentionally."  

A (somewhat) happy ending for all.