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April 7th, 2014

US Supreme Court Declines New Mexico Wedding Photog’s Discrimination Case

A New Mexico photographer who has been held liable for violating state anti-discrimination laws by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding has been turned away by the US Supreme Court, where she had sought a review of her case.

Elaine Huguenin, owner of Elane Photography of Albuquerque, had asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a series of lower court rulings that found her in violation New Mexico human rights laws for discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

The high court declined today without comment to hear Elane Photography’s appeal, effectively upholding three lower court rulings against her.

Huguenin had refused for religious reasons in 2006 to photograph the commitment ceremony of Vanessa Willock and her partner, Misty Pascottini. Willock filed a complaint to the The New Mexico Human Rights Commission, which ruled in 2008 that Huguenin had violated the state’s anti-dscrimination law.

Huguenin appealed to a New Mexico district court, the New Mexico Court of Appeals, and the New Mexico State Supreme Court. All three upheld the NMHRC ruling.

In appealing to the US Supreme Court for a hearing, Huguenin argued that she should be free under the First Amendment to express herself as a photographer, and that any compulsion to shoot same-sex weddings under New Mexico’s anti-discrimination laws amounted to government-compelled speech that violated her civil rights.

In refusing to hear the case, the US Supreme Court effectively upheld the decision last summer by New Mexico State Supreme Court justice Edward L. Chávez.

He wrote in that decision:  “A commercial photography business that offers its services to the public, thereby increasing its visibility to potential clients, is subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the [New Mexico Human Rights Act] and must serve same-sex couples on the same basis that it serves opposite-sex couples.”

Chávez also said in his decision that New Mexico’s human rights law doesn’t compel Elane Photography “to either speak a government-mandated message or to publish the speech of another.”And he said those offering services to the public do not have to give up their First Amendment rights under the the state human rights law because “[t]hey may, for example, post a disclaimer on their website or in their studio advertising that they oppose same-sex marriage but that they comply with applicable anti-discrimination laws.”

Related:
Photographer Who Refused to Shoot Same-Sex Wedding Loses Another Appeal
NM Wedding Photogs Can’t Discriminate Against Same Sex Couples, Court Confirms

August 28th, 2013

Ruling on Wedding Photog’s Refusal of Same-Sex Couple Explains How Law Applies to Annie Leibovitz

Last week, in their ruling that wedding photographers in New Mexico can’t refuse on moral or religious grounds to provide services to same-sex couples, the state supreme court justices were careful to note that state anti-discrimination law does not apply to commercial or fine-art photographers. The justices said the level of a wedding photographer’s artistry doesn’t matter, and referenced the work of Annie Leibovitz and Peter Lindbergh as a hypothetical example to make the point.

The appellant in the case, Elane Photography, was asking the state’s high court to overturn a ruling by a lower court that said Elane Photography had violated the law by refusing to photograph a commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.

In rejecting Elane Photography’s appeal, the high court noted that the ruling applies only to photographers who offer their services to the general public:

“The reality is that because [Elane Photography] is a public accommodation [ie, a business offering services to the general public], its provision of services can be regulated, even though those services include artistic and creative work. If Elane Photography took photographs on its own time and sold them at a gallery, or if it was hired by certain clients but did not offer its services to the general public, the law would not apply to Elane Photography’s choice of whom to photograph or not,” the court said in its decision.

“This determination has no relation to the artistic merit of  photographs produced by Elane Photography. If Annie Leibovitz or Peter Lindbergh worked as public accommodations in New Mexico, they would be subject to [the state's anti-discrimination laws].”

The full story about the case is at PDNonline.com.

November 20th, 2012

Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Appoints Jason Groupp WPPI Director

The Nielsen Photo Group, which owns PDN, has announced the appointment of Jason Groupp as the director of Wedding & Portrait Photographers International. We’d like to welcome Jason to the Nielsen Photo Group. For more information on the appointment, please see the press release below.

Photo By Zack Arias

PRESS RELEASE

New York, NY (November 20, 2012) – Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) announces today the appointment of Professional Photographer Jason Groupp as the new WPPI Director.

Groupp will be responsible for overseeing the growth of membership and education, setting up speakers for the annual WPPI Conference and Expo and maintaining speaker relations for the conference, WPPI U and WPPI on the road. Groupp will also act as liaison for WPPI to the photography community, supervise photo competitions and work with teams to help provide editorial content for Rangefinder Magazine, WPPI blog and the InFocus newsletter.

“I’m so excited to be joining The Nielsen Photo Group as WPPI Director. The annual WPPI Conference and publications such as Photo District News and Rangefinder Magazine have been such an important part of my career as a professional wedding photographer,” said Jason Groupp, WPPI Director. “After graduating college in 1989, I utilized the ‘assistants wanted’ section of Photo District News to help launch my career.  It goes without saying that 25 years later, I’m excited for the opportunity to help today’s new photographers find those ‘help wanted’ ads that helped me back then. I’ve loved and appreciated every minute of my WPPI experiences, and I couldn’t ask for a better place to now call home.”

Manhattan, NY-based Jason Groupp studied fashion photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City graduating in 1989. He’s been shooting weddings for 23 years. Sophisticated but instantly accessible, Jason Groupp’s wedding photography celebrates the individuality of every couple he works with. Having honed his style on the streets of Manhattan, Jason instinctively creates a sense of place and style in every client’s photograph. Whether it’s a free-spirited portrait of a newly engaged couple astride a motorcycle or a rare quiet moment shared by a bride and groom against the splashy backdrop of a Las Vegas cityscape, Jason captures the relationship between a couple and their surroundings.

For more information about Jason Groupp visit: http://www.jasongroupp.com/

All WPPI 2013 classes, events and the expo will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV, from March 7-14, 2013. WPPI is the biggest event in the world for wedding and portrait photographers. Last year, nearly 16,000 registered attendees and over 180 speakers from throughout the United States as well as from 46 foreign countries as far away as Latin America, Australia and Russia gathered in Las Vegas, NV for WPPI. Attending professional photographers and those looking to begin their career in photography were able to learn from the best and see the latest and greatest products from 330 exhibitors that participated in the expo.

The 2013 conference will feature specialized education programs like Platform Classes, Master Classes, Plus Classes and WPPI U. WPPI U is a university-style, two-day workshop providing the fundamentals of photography to help today’s up-and-coming photographers strengthen their shooting skills, learn to market their photography services and how to run a profitable business. Also, the 16×20 Print and Album Competitions provide an extra measure of excitement and recognition during the event, culminating with the WPPI Awards Night extravaganza.

Registration (Http://registration3.experientevent.com/ShowWPP131/?flowcode=ATT) for WPPI 2013 and is open now. The early bird registration rate for access to the WPPI 2013 Conference and Expo is $199 for WPPI members and $379 for non-members through December 14, 2012. On December 15, 2012 registration rates increase to regular prices online; $275 for WPPI members and $399 for non-members. These rates include one (1) free guest, all Platform classes, special events and a 3-day pass to the biggest photography expo for wedding and portrait photographers.

For more information about WPPI 2013 and all of its workshops and events, please visit: www.wppionline.com.

About WPPI

Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), a division of Nielsen Photo Group, is an international membership organization that serves the educational and business needs of wedding and portrait photographers. WPPI is a professional organization that exists to help its 3,500 active member photographers by providing them with exclusive information, programs and professional services to assist with their photographic artistry and business needs. WPPI routinely supplies its members with new benefits and valuable industry information enabling them to succeed in today’s active photo market business. WPPI membership gives photographers the resources they need to succeed and the tools they require to build and develop a strong personal support network.

In 2012, WPPI completed its 32nd annual Conference and Expo, featuring 320 exhibitors in its convention space at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.  The annual WPPI 2013 Conference and Expo is set to take place next year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV, from March 7-14, 2013. For more information visit: www.wppionline.com.

November 12th, 2012

Anti-Gay Group Pleads Fair Use, Free Speech in Infringement Case

An anti-gay group sued for using a photograph of a gay couple without permission in political attack ads has asked the court to dismiss the case on fair use and free speech grounds, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Public Advocate of the United States (PAUS) was sued in federal court in September by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere, as well as photographer Kristina Hill. The lawsuit charged PAUS of misappropriation of the likenesses of Edwards and Privitere, a gay couple, in two attack ads distributed in Colorado. The lawsuit also charged infringement of Hill’s copyrights.

Motions to dismiss civil claims are a common legal defense strategy of first resort, and are usually unsuccessful unless the facts of a case are undisputed.

Hill, a Brooklyn-based wedding photographer, had shot engagement photos of the couple. Edwards ended up posting one of the images on his blog, with Hill’s permission. PAUS downloaded the photo, and used it last spring in campaign ads against Colorado state senator Jean White (who had voted in favor of allowing same-sex unions in Colorado) and against Jeffrey Hare, a candidate for the Colorado house of representatives. The ads were distributed as mailers.

According to the Washington Post report, PAUS said that its use of the photograph is protected speech, because the organization was expressing its political views about gay marriage. PAUS also said that the gay couple depicted in the photograph had no reasonable expectation of privacy, because they had posted the image online where anyone could see it.

In its defense against the copyright infringement claim, PAUS argued that its use of the photo was protected by fair use because it “thoroughly transformed” Hill’s photograph by changing the background before publishing it in the political mailers. Hill had photographed the couple against a New York skyline. The PAUS ads replaced that skyline with two different Colorado landscapes.

Related:
Anti-GAy Group Sued for Unauthorized Use of Photo in Attack Ads

September 26th, 2012

Anti-Gay Group Sued for Unauthorized Use of Photo in Attack Ads

©Kristina Hill

The Southern Poverty Law Center has sued an anti-gay group for unauthorized use of a photograph of a gay couple in political attack ads in Colorado earlier this year.

SPLC sued the Virginia-based Public Advocate for the United States (PAUS) for violating the copyrights of photographer Kristina Hill of Brooklyn, New York. The suit also alleges that PAUS unlawfully appropriated the likenesses of the couple in the photograph–Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere.

Public Advocate of the United States, which SPLC classifies as a hate group because of its anti-gay propaganda, used Hill’s photo last spring in campaign ads against Colorado state senator Jean White (who had voted in favor of allowing same-sex unions in Colorado) and against Jeffrey Hare, a candidate for the Colorado house of representatives. The ads were distributed as mailers.

Hill’s image of Edwards and Privitere, shot during an engagement session, shows them kissing with a New York skyline in the background. Edwards ended up posting the image on his blog, with Hill’s permission.

PAUS downloaded the image, stripped out the background, and replaced it with backgrounds of two different Colorado landscapes for the unauthorized campaign mailers. PAUS superimposed text that read “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?’” in one mailer and “Jeffrey Hare’s Vision for Weld County?” in the other ad.

White was defeated in her re-election race.

“I cringe every time I look at what once was one of our favorite photos,” Edwards said in a press release issued by SPLC when it filed the lawsuit today. “All I see now is the defiled image used to attack our family and our community. All we want is justice for the pain that Public Advocate has caused us. ”

An SPLC attorney said in the press release: “This was just a cheap way for Public Advocate to avoid having to pay for a stock photo to use in their hateful anti-gay attack ad. It was nothing short of theft.”

Hill, Edwards and Privitere are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

Related stories:
Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad
Wedding Photographer Might Sue for Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

June 29th, 2012

Wedding Photog Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

Wedding photographer Kristina Hill says she’s contemplating legal action for copyright infringement against a Virginia-based group that has ripped off one of her images of a same-sex couple, and used it to create a political attack ad.

The group, called Public Advocate of the United States, used an engagement photo of Hill’s showing her clients kissing. The group used the image in a political ad attacking Colorado State Senator Jean White, who has voted in favor of allowing civil unions in Colorado.

Public Advocate, which is designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  cropped Hill’s image, stripped away the background of the New York skyline, and replaced it with a background of a Colorado landscape in winter. The group also superimposed text that read: “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?’”

©Kristina Hill

The ad was created for a conservative anti-gay opponent vying for White’s senate seat. White was defeated in that race.

One of the men in Hill’s photograph, Brian Edwards, was notified by a friend about the ad. Edwards minced no words about it on his blog called The Gay Wedding Experience: “How do I feel? I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.”

According to The Denver Post, Edwards and his partner have hired a lawyer.

Hill also wrote about the theft on her blog. “To see an image, taken with that intent being used in the way it was used is heart-breaking for me,” she said. (Hill was a PDN Top Knots contest winner in 2010.)

In The Denver Post story about the ad, Public Advocate defended its unauthorized use of the image on the grounds that others “make fair use of our materials.” (Public Advocate’s web site says it is “fighting Liberals Tyrants Elitists Homosexuals Barack Obama pornography gay marriage same-sex marriage high taxes over-regulation.”)

In an interview with PDN, Hill said of Public Advocate’s use of her image, “It’s obviously copyright infringement, and I plan to pursue it.”

She’s just not certain she has the resources–or the stomach–for a protracted court fight. “There’s not going to be monetary gain in my lawsuit. I don’t care. I would be looking for justice. But it could drag on for years, and rack up a lot legal fees for me, and I don’t have a ton of money.”

She adds, “They’re a powerful organization that did this. I’m one tiny photographer. It’s scary. It could be a lot of tearing me apart. It could get ugly.”

June 6th, 2012

NM Wedding Photogs Can’t Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples, Court Confirms

New Mexico’s appeals court has confirmed that wedding photographers who refuse to shoot same-sex weddings violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

New Mexico Court of Appeals judge Timothy L. Garcia affirmed two previous rulings that Elane Photography of Albuquerque violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act when they refused to photograph the wedding of a same-sex couple on religious grounds.

The NMHRA prohibits businesses offering services to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The appeals court rejected Elane Photography’s arguments that forcing them to photograph a same-sex wedding under NMHRA amounted to a violation of their freedom of speech or freedom of religion protections.

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission originally ruled in 2008 that Elane Photography violated the state law. A trial court affirmed the NMHRC decision in 2010, triggering a second appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

The case arose after plaintiff Vanessa Willock inquired about hiring Elane Photography to photograph her commitment ceremony. She indicated it was a “same-gender” ceremony. The owners fo Elane Photograph–Elaine and Jonahtna Huguenin–responded that they photographed only “traditional” weddings. Willock followed up, asking Elane to clarify whether “it does not offer photography services to same-sex couples.” Elane photography responded, “Yes, you are correct in saying we do not photograph same-sex weddings.”

The next day, Willock’s partner sent an e-mail inquiring about photography for her wedding, without mentioning that it was a same-sex ceremony. Elane Photography responded by sending pricing information, indicating a willingness to travel to the wedding, and offering to meet to discuss options.

Willock filed a claim for discrimination with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, and won her case. The NMHRC awarded her $6,638 in attorney’s fees. She did not seek monetary damages.

The appeals court re-examined all of the arguments that Elane Photography presented  in its original appeal to a state trial court, and rejected them one after another.

For instance, Elane Photography argued that it refused to photograph a same sex-wedding, but that didn’t amount to discrimination against Willock because Elane Photography would have photographed her in other contexts, such as portrait sessions, for example. But the court said that amounted to “attempt[ing] to justify impermissible discrimination” by separating Willock’s actions from her status as a member of a protected class. The argument, the court went on to say, “is without merit.”

Elane Photography also argued that the NMHRA violated rights of freedom of expression protected by the US and New Mexico constitutions. The basis of that argument was that photography is an artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.

But the appeals court batted down that argument, too: “the NMHRA regulates Elane Photography’s conduct in its commercial business, not its speech or right to express its own views about same-sex relationships. As a result, Elane Photography’s commercial business conduct, taking photographs for hire, is not so inherently expressive as to warrant First Amendment protections.” The court explained that taking pictures of a same-sex wedding doesn’t by itself convey a (constitutionally protected) message of approval or disapproval of same sex marriage, the court explained. “[A]n observer might simply assume that Elane Photography operates a business for profit and will accept any commercially viable photography job.”

Similarly, Elane Photography argued that forcing it, under the NMHRA, to photograph a same-sex wedding would violate its freedom of religion protections. But the appeals court said the NMHRA doesn’t prevent the owners of Elane Photography from practicing their religion. And the court reasoned,  “Elane Photography voluntarily entered public commerce and, by doing so, became subject to generally applicable regulations such as the NMHRC. When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes [that] are binding on others in that activity.”

The owners of Elane Photography were not immediately available for comment. It is not clear whether they plan to appeal the latest ruling to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The full text of the ruling can be downloaded here.

January 11th, 2012

Divorcé Suing for Wedding Pic Re-Do Just Enforcing a Contract, He Tells AP

The divorced guy who suffered public ridicule for suing his wedding photographer and insisting that photographer shoot a re-enactment of his 2003 wedding has spoken out in his own defense.

In reporting on the case, PDN Pulse suggested it was time for the ex-groom move on. But it seems his motive for suing is to hold a business to a pledge, not hold onto his broken marriage, according to a new AP report.

“It was their [the photographer's] failure to deliver after a promise and a handshake” agreement to retouch the photos, according to a statement he provided to The Associated Press, the wire service reports. “How could a business treat a customer this way?”

The ex-groom is Todd Remis of New York, who sued H&H Photographers in 2009 to re-create his wedding photos. H&H photographed his wedding in 2003. He and his ex-wife began divorce proceedings in 2008, and the divorce was final in 2010. Remis has lost contact with his ex-wife, Milena Grzibovska, and has said during court proceedings that he believes she moved back to Latvia, where she was from.

During a deposition he stated, “I need to have the wedding recreated exactly as it was so that the remaining 15 percent of the wedding that was not shot can be shot…so we would need to recreate everything to complete that.”

The New York Times reported Remis’s lawsuit and testimony in November. Remis was branded “Groomzilla” by the tabloids and became the butt of jokes and ridicule on the Web and television. He has declined to be interviewed by the media, including AP.

Related:
Long After Divorce, Groom Sues to Have Wedding Photos Recreated

December 21st, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Jerry Ghionis’s WPPI Speaker Video

This year, organizers for the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Convention and Trade Show invited their headlining speakers and renowned industry leaders to express what WPPI means to them. They got a lot of great videos in response to the request, but one of our favorites was done by Melbourne, Australia-based Jerry Ghionis. Inspired by the recent Old Spice commercials, check it out to find out what WPPI means to him.