Rumors circulated on Twitter over the weekend that about 10 million archival images from the collection of the defunct French picture agency Sygma were about to be destroyed. The images have been under the control of a liquidation trustee since Corbis, which bought Sygma in 1999, finally got fed up last May with financial losses and lawsuits over missing images, and walked away.
Reports of the impending destruction of the images alarmed photographers and their trade groups, which have been eager to spread word that photographers with images in the collection should claim them. But Corbis spokesperson Dan Perlet says it was “a storm in a tea cup” swirling around a false rumor. “These things get started on a Friday afternoon when everyone is bored and on Twitter,” he says. Perlet says that Stéphane Gorrias, the liquidation trustee, “has always said to us that he had no intention of destroying [the images.]”
The images in question represent about 25 percent of the Sygma collection, and belong to photographers who wouldn’t accept new Corbis contracts–which weren’t as generous as their Sygma contracts–or to photographers who had died or otherwise couldn’t be located by Corbis. The other 75 percent of the Sygma collection remains under Corbis’s care and control. Those images belong to photographers who signed Corbis contracts.
Yesterday, Gorrias told the British Journal of Photography that reports about the impending destruction of the images under his control are “erroneous,” and that “there are currently no plans to destroy any images held in the collections.”
Gorrias may or may not have been backpedaling, in the wake of all the outrage on Twitter. He did not immediately respond to PDN‘s request for an interview. But the rumor about the collection’s demise apparently started on a French photojournalism blog called A l’oeil, maintained by Michel Puech.
Puech reported on February 21 that he periodically asked Gorrias directly what he planned to do with the old Sygma images. Last November, Gorrias reportedly told Puech he wanted to sell them at auction. In early February, when Puech had a chance to ask again, Gorrias reportedly told him that he would soon be forced to destroy the images.
By Perlet’s recounting, “someone” had told Puech that the images would be destroyed, and another blogger–Paul Melcher–picked up Puech’s story (in French), did a “rough” translation, and raised the alarm on Friday, February 25. Twitter then lit up over the weekend with what Perlet says is a false rumor.
But Corbis has no control over what Gorrias does with the images under his control as liquidation trustee. The agency takes Gorrias’s repeated assurances at face value, but Perlet says, “We’re trying to get him to put that in writing.”
As for the statement that Gorrias reportedly made to Puech about how he’ll be forced to destroy the images soon, Perlet says, “I think maybe Mr. Puech took an off-the-cuff comment by Mr. Gorrias too literally…that’s my guess, but I don’t know.”
©Dotan Saguy A former tech entrepreneur now pursuing photography as a second career, Dotan Saguy has gained notice for his project about the vitality, energy and spectacle of Venice Beach. National Geographic, ABC News, and others have published the work online, and Saguy, 46, has been invited to attend both the Missouri Photo Workshop and... More ›
Mary F. Calvert, Kirsten Luce, Katie Orlinsky, Sergey Ponomarev and Jonathan Torgovnik have each won a $10,000 grant from Getty Images through its annual Grants for Editorial Photography program. The program aims to “showcase and support powerful and inspiring photojournalism projects,” says Getty Images, which announced the winners today. Ponomarev, based in Moscow, was recognized for his... More ›
Wilbur “Bill” Garrett, who methodically raised the standards for photography at National Geographic and pushed for coverage of timely and sometimes controversial subjects during his tenure as editor in the 1980s, died at his home on August 13, National Geographic has reported. He was 85. Garrett began pushing for a more photojournalistic approach to Geographic... More ›