Several weeks ago, a trustee in charge of millions of old news images in the Sygma archive tamped down rumors that the archive would be destroyed. That quieted the general outrage, and may have left photographers who still have images in the archive with some hope that they might be able to reclaim the images.
But no. The trustee has told PDN (and various photographers who have also inquired) that it is too late to claim the images. The trustee is mum about what will become of the archive, though.
“I inform you that rights of photographers to make claims for their pictures and slides has expired,” a spokesman for the trustee, Stéphane Gorrias, told PDN in an e-mail last week.
The images have been under the control of Gorrias since Corbis, which bought Sygma in 1999, walked away from the collection in May, 2010. Corbis abandoned the collection because it was fed up with financial losses and lawsuits over missing images.
When rumors began circulating at the end of February that Gorrias had said he would destroy the images, photographers and their trade groups began circulating word on Twitter and elsewhere to encourage former Sygma photographers to claim their images.
But it is too late to do that, apparently, and Gorrias’s spokesperson informed us that the “pictures and slides will be simply archived.” She added, “Remaining at your disposal for further information.”
We certainly asked for further information: Who is paying to archive the images? And for how long? Surely there must be a plan to dispose of the archive somehow, because it makes no sense to archive the images indefinitely. So what is the plan?
We received no answer to those questions. The images have apparently gone to picture purgatory, out of reach of the photographers who own them, and headed for some unknown fate. Will they be destroyed after all? Put out on the curb with the trash or recycling? Hocked at a pawn shop in Paris? Put into a cave where future generations can rediscover them, and marvel at them?
Only one man knows, and we await his call.