Dispute between Humans of New York photographer and DKNY ends with $25K donation to photographer’s charity


posted Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:48 PM EDT


A dispute between a photographer who runs a popular photo blog and a major fashion designer seems to have ended amicably with a big donation by the designer to the photographer's charity.

Brandon Stanton who runs Humans of New York, a blog that features his street portraits of New Yorkers, was incensed that DKNY, the clothing label started by designer Donna Karan, appeared to have used dozens of his images in a storefront in Bangkok, Thailand without his permission. DKNY had initially approached Stanton about purchasing 300 of his photos to hang in store windows "around the world." The company offered Stanon $15,000 for the images, a figure the photographer thought was too low and initially turned down.

Not long after, a fan of Stanton's sent him an image showing his photos in the window of a DKNY store in Bangkok. Stanton shared the news about the dispute on the popular Humans of New York Facebook page, which has over 562,000 "likes."

"These photos were used without my knowledge, and without compensation," Stanton wrote. "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."

Well, apparently DKNY saw Stanton's post and admitted it had made a mistake, offering to donate $25,000 to the YMCA in the following status update on its 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."

While it's less than the $100,000 Stanton was asking for, he says he's satisfied with the donation.

"$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA," Stanton wrote. "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."