New York-based street photographer Brandon Stanton runs the enormously popular Tumblr blog, Humans of New York, which documents daily life in the Big Apple through portraits. When the DKNY fashion label offered Stanton $15,000 to hang his photos in their store windows months ago, the photographer asked them for more money and was turned down.
But as Stanton explained in a Facebook post Monday, he received a photo from a friend who'd caught his work on display at a DKNY storefront in Bangkok, Thailand.
"These photos were used without my knowledge, and without compensation," Stanton wrote.
In lieu of compensation, Stanton asked Facebook followers to lobby DKNY to donate money to a Brooklyn YMCA. After more than 37,000 shares and 4,000 comments, DKNY claimed that the Bangkok store had only used Stanton's images by accident. The company promised to donate $25,000 to the YMCA.
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.
Though Stanton seemed to feel that the story had a "happy handing," The Huffington Post pointed out a tweet from DKNY's PR rep, which insinuated that Stanton should have contacted DKNY directly before taking to social media.
Dear @humansofny, this whole thing makes me really sad. U were even just a guest at our shows. This all could have been handled directly.— DKNY PR GIRL® (@dkny) February 25, 2013