Jason Lee Parry Defends Himself Against $28,000,000 Lawsuit

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You may remember photographer Jason Lee Parry from the $28,000,000 lawsuit brought against him in August by parents of a young model he photographed (APE story here). The parents flipped out when a sexually suggestive image that Parry took of their 16 year old daughter on a motorcycle (she was 15 at the time) appeared on clothing in Urban Outfitters. In an email to us Jason claims the lawsuit is nothing but a publicity stunt because: the models father was on set for the majority of the shoot, the parents and Ford modeling agency approved of the images after the shoot, and the model posted the images to her blog after the shoot. Finally, he says the images appeared on the shirts in Urban Outfitters without his permission. Heidi Volpe asked him a few questions about what happened:

Heidi: How did you find out you were getting sued?
Jason: I received a phone call from a reporter of the New York Post named Bruce Golding on August 15th 2011. He broke the news and emailed me the documentation of the lawsuit before I received it from anyone else or knew I was even being sued.

What is most upsetting about the lawsuit?
The images have been out in the public for 18 Months, it’s the second image that comes up when you google her name. It has been on my website and I’ve never been asked to take them down, it has been on Ford models website and was never asked to be taken down as well as on the Model’s Facebook page, blog and thousands of other fashion blogs. The second it comes out on an Urban Outfitters t-shirt, the Model’s parents try to sue for $28 million. It is obviously 100% about money. Why didn’t the parents contact the magazine and ask them to not publish the images?

How long after you did the shoot, did the lawsuit come up?
18 Months.

Were the parents on set during the photo shoot?
The model’s father was present for a majority of the shoot. He was shown photos while on set and sanctioned them long before they were published.

Was the treatment approved and discussed?
The treatment was discussed and approved with Meg Day of Ford Models, the teen Model’s booker at the time as well as the teen Model’s father the day of the shoot. Both approved, and the second the editorial was published, I personally dropped off the magazine with her booker at Ford Models. Everyone was very happy with the story. Ford at that point even hired me to test shoot their new faces, which I did.

Did they have any comments during the shoot?
Her dad just spoke about how he used to ride motorcycles.

Did the model have a problem with them prior to the t-shirt coming out?
After the photos were released the model proudly posted the images in question to her Facebook, blog and the Ford models website. She also posted behind the scenes photos of the shoot on her blog. Also, before the lawsuit, the Model’s brother and two of his friends had posted a photo of themselves on her Facebook page all wearing the t-shirt in question. The Model had commented under the photo that her friends all need to get one of the t-shirts.

Friends Wearing The T-Shirt

 

Behind The Scenes Photos On The Models Blog

What prompted them to sue?
When the parents of the teen model figured that they could try to make money off of this as well as create buzz for their daughter. It’s 100% about money.

How did Urban Outfitters get the images?
Blood is the New Black manufactured the t-shirts and sold them to Urban Outfitters for further sales and wider distribution.

Why didn’t you get a model release?
Hailey is under-age so she can’t sign a model release, instead her Booker at Ford models is in charge of the model release. The model agencies don’t allow the model to directly sign with the photographer. I do have the release for the publication in my files and the booker has one as well.

Is there a resolution in sight?
I was officially served on October 5th 2011. I believe that the truth will prevail and the lies will be revealed.

What has this done to your career?
This has definitely been a learning experience and has been beneficial for me in terms of my name as a photographer being recognized. But this is obviously not the way I want others to learn of my name. This lawsuit has caused much stress on my family and myself,. It was just a ploy to scare Urban Outfitters out of money.  Since this lawsuit came out I haven’t skipped a beat, and have only gained clients. I just hope this burden is resolved soon, so my career will continue on the path that it was on.

Heidi Volpe

There Are 35 Comments On This Article.

  1. Thanks for the opportunity to hear the photographers side of this story. If I recall several, if not many, commentators on the initial post here predicted the photographers career would be over but it sounds like he is doing quite well. It definitely serves as a cautionary tale though.

  2. Great interview, and great to hear he’s actually doing well and didn’t let this whole thing get to him too much. It’s too bad a photographer has to get caught up in a fight between parents wanting to monetize their child and a large company that, from what it sounds like, didn’t follow the rules for licensing. But in the end it sounds like Jason Lee Parry’s the only mature adult in this whole story.

  3. I think when this first came out, most knew it was about the money. I know I was critical of how he may or may not have done his part to stay outside the sphere of being sued. Ultimately it all comes out in the wash….

  4. And the most pertinent question was omitted..

    “What the hell were you thinking, irrespective of the legal issues that followed, photographing a *15 year old girl* in that pose?”

    The sexualisation of children isn’t on, end of story. I don’t care how prevalent it may be these days, you don’t go contributing to it if you have any sort of ethics.

    • The idea that the pose is purely sexual is very silly to me. The pose is artistic and edgy. I saw the shoot on fashion blogs before any of this lawsuit nonsense hit the news, and not once did I find the shoot sexual. When I see them, I think things like “lackadaisical,” “nostalgic,” or “brooding.” I realize that any art, including photography, has different interpretations to different people, but I distinctly remember reading that the photographer never intended a sexual message either. That other project sexuality onto these images is their right, but it’s also their opinion.

      • Of course every image is open to interpretation, maybe Jason didn’t intend it, and most of the descriptions you mention certainly do apply.

        But c’mon, it’s quite obvious what the overriding one is and in my opinion it’s pretty disingenuous for anyone to suggest otherwise. A “lackadaisical,” “nostalgic,” or “brooding” mood could easily have been suggested without having the girl posing in skimpy shorts with her legs wide open & sultry expression. Artistic? Where’s the art exactly? I’ve seen a multitude of shots of models shot with that hazy sunlight feel, it’s nothing new and it’s not a particularly great example of how well that approach can work.

        Jason may have never intended it to look sexual, he may have just been going with the flow of the shoot and possibly didn’t even suggest the pose. When it came to the edit though, that’s when I thought he made a mistake.

        I find the fashion industry’s preoccupation with depicting young teens in a sexualised way to be pretty loathsome, but that’s just me. Is the industry really that bereft of “edgy” ideas?

        By the way though it’s quite obvious what the parents are up to. If they were that concerned they should have said “no chance” as soon as they saw the shot. Having seen some of the other shoots with this model it’s quite clear that they aren’t bothered how their daughter is portrayed. I hope they don’t win. I also hope that Jason re-evaluates his approach.

        PS Just for the record, I’m not some right wing, god fearing, sex hating fundamentalist – quite the opposite..

      • There are several poses that are not artistic, especially the one in question. Melvin Sokolsky bubble series was art, this is ……I am not sure.

    • Chris Saunders is ‘point on’ and everyone else is missing it. Despite ‘The Pose’ being ‘edgy’ and ‘artististic’…which I will switch out for the proper term..Cliche’ and obvious….it’s clearly a photographer doing what many have always done…taking the easy route in composing a photo….I have been taking pictures for twenty years and have seen ‘ye old crotch shot’ way too many times…it’s boring..not edgy…and now away days routine. She’s 15 JLP….
      get it?..Did you show that picture to your mom? Whats she think of it?

  5. After looking at the models images from other shoots Jerry’s seem tame
    A few others are extremely blatant about her sexuality compared to the image in question.
    May be the parents found out they could not touch her money.
    I think other Photographers need to cross all the T’s, dot the I’s and still reconsider working with her.

  6. Awesome interview as always. Hope this works out in the photographer’s favor.

    28 million? As if anyone has that kind of money lying around.

  7. This reminds me of the ridiculous story of a guy named Todd Remis suing a wedding photographer for $48,000 over wedding photos he claims were botched. He just brought suit this year, wanting the photographer to recreate the wedding that took place in 2003, and regardless of the fact that he and his wife were divorced in 2008. There is no shortage of greedy, creepy people in the world today.

    If anyone’s career suffers from this, I’d like to think it will only be the model’s, although it’s doubtful that this was her idea. I’d love to think the court will throw out the case, but I’m guessing Urban Outfitters will throw money at the parents in order to make them go away. (Thus ensuring that more of the same type of suits will crop up in the future.)

  8. I am so glad the photographer was finally able to state his facts. Ever since this suit came out I thought it was really creepy, in terms of this teen model and her parents. You A of all don’t just throw the term ‘kiddie porn” around. Sanuders, please, I think this model just contributes to the sexualization of children by being herself. Have you seen her other shoots? If her parents were so concerned they should have just had her model for Sears or JCPenney. But no, they want her in the ‘high fashion’ industry. Also, I assume you are so concerned about the sexualization of children you’ve never watched movies like the Professional or Taxi Driver or tons of other movies. Should Martin Scorsese have been sued?
    I agree, I hope that this case gets dropped.

    • Erm did I say it was “kiddie porn”? I know it’s nowhere near as bad as that. It’s just dubious in my opinion.

      As for the model, yes I’m aware of her past shoots. I think she’s been guided wrongly by her parents especially (who I agree are obviously being opportunistic), and those in the industry who think it’s cool to depict children like this. She herself probably even likes presenting herself like this having grown up in a culture where imagery like this is pervasive and normalised. Just because a 15 year old thinks it’s cool doesn’t make it so.

      You say her parents want her in “high fashion”. I dare say they do. The bigger issue is why high fashion wants children in images like these. Why not use adults (and *without* making them look like children either)? I’d like an answer to that one.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love sexual imagery, just not when there’s children involved. I think it’s kinda wrong…

  9. Super Zimmer

    This has got to be a huge pain in the ass for Perry. How in the hell does someone go about “defending themselves” in a giant suit like this? I mean, it’s gonna be a helluva lot more complicated than just showing up and telling your side of the story. I hope it works out for him.

  10. It’s obvious that the parents are trying to make some quick money. If the father was on location maybe he should have been upset at the time of the incident. Instead of a year and a half after the fact.

  11. I’m only 25, but I feel like I can say that parents are so full of it nowadays. It’s all about “Who can we blame??” They won’t take responsibility for what their kids say, see, or do, but they’re up in arms over things like this. They’d rather censor the world than take an interest in their child. Let’s censor music, television, movies, magazines, the internet, everything! But it’s too late. Parents, take a look at your kid’s Facebook or Twitter to see the language they’re using, the drugs they’re taking, and the skin they’re showing. It’s all happening under your nose.

  12. Absolutely ridiculous. Behind you all the way babe. Always have been. The truth will come out, as it always does.. That’s why karma exists.. :-)
    Just keep being you. ‘Creativity Takes Courage’ -Henri Matisse.
    x

  13. This is insane, but not surprising that it happened. Sounds like the photographer has plenty of evidence to back him up and prevail… but, stranger things have happened. I hope there are some updates to this.

  14. Stay strong brother. 18 months after the fact is a little late to have issues with the photo. I know you will come out on top.

    CM.

  15. Nice to hear the photographer’s side of the story and agreed 28 million is crazy. However, I am still confused as to how the T-shirt manufacturer got the image in the first place?

  16. Oh, because 28 million is a completely understandable amount of money for something the model agreed and promoted herself. What a joke. It’s ugly to see money, corruption and lawsuits ruin the exposure of any artwork.

    Good luck Jason.

  17. The photog took her photo under the pretense of fashion editorial, targeted towards women. Likely she was not paid for the photoshoot, or not more than a couple hundred dollars vs. the rate a model would be paid for commercial use of an image.

    The fees and waiver for use for commercial purposes in the sale of her image on a t-shirt marketed to men is a matter of which he should know better. This happens too much with photographers feeling entitled and cutting talent out of deals. Its wrong.

    Also, the photographer should indeed check his ethics and professionalism. Many talented kids have whacked out parents. It is up to us all as grown ups and professionals to know better. A 15 year old with her crotch spread like that is indeed being sexualized. So what if she posed like that? She is a CHILD and Parry is an “ADULT”. Be responsible. Think of those girls as your own daughter someday. Stop shooting underage girls with their nips and crotches showing and in seductive poses. There is nothing wrong with images like that of women. Try to shoot some grown ups for a change and don’t try to make $$ off of a kid.

    • I believe you are mistaken. Many models who start just do this to get their name out. The opportunity she got to pose with them was amazing. The t-shirts, even more public chance. Many models in New York do not even get paid really when they start just like many ambitious careers. She and her parents went into this shoot knowing she would get paid only that much. If her parents “wanted more money” they should have said something in the first place. The release was signed! Having your photo in urban outfitters should pay itself and her parents just should have been proud. Instead months latter after they sue, EVEN THOUGH during the shoot, the only thing the dad said to the photographer was about biking. If daddy was so protective about his daughter then why did he not say anything then? Or for any of the other shoots their daughter has posed in? The photographer sets up the lights, and setting, HOWEVER the model does have control of her poses for the most part. If the parents should be concerned, it with their own daughter. Maybe talked to your daughter about her career because she is a MODEL. You deserve 28 million for little experience, for getting that great of an opportunity that young? Oh wait the parents deserve that. Yeah that all makes complete sense. About a year latter? That’s called getting greedy.