My Very First “Cease and Desist” Letter

Click to enlarge, if you’re into this kind of thing.

Cease and Desist1 Cease and Desist2FYI, asking nicely would’ve worked, too (and been cheaper). My general policy is that anyone who ends up in a photo on this site should feel free to request its removal, and the odds are very good that I’ll comply.



  1. Erik, As a long time reader and fan of you site I think this most recent post of yours is somewhat childish. While your initial post of the topic led to useful dialogue about the topic, it did republish the photos to more of the general public… to an audience that might not have seen the photos in the gallery exhibition. Of course the family could have sent you a simple letter asking you to take them down, but seeing as they are in the midst of a legal battle and dealing with the public controversy over the “artist” they have every right to send you a letter as you were a propagator of disseminating the content. I think the mature thing to have done would be to take the photos down without posting the cease and desist. Just let it be, because now you are intentionally trying the make the family look bad – and they have a right to not have pictures of their children posted all over the web.

    Again, I am a fan of yours… but sometimes its best to be the bigger person and let bygones be bygones. Perhaps be a little empathetic to what the family is going through.

  2. @private: You may be right, and posting this letter may have been childish (although it’s definitely more mature than my original plan to post an annotated version in which I reacted to many of its points). I decided to post it not just because I don’t like being threatened, especially with legal action, but also because it’s part of the bigger Arne Svenson story.

    I started out very empathetic to the subjects of Svenson’s photos, and I still think that people shouldn’t take photos inside their neighbors’ apartments. But I’m not sure that Svenson’s photos were, at the end of the day, this big of a deal.

  3. You’re right, they probably aren’t that big of a deal – in regards to how much media coverage they have gotten, but I think perhaps they finally give us all an excuse to talk about the larger issue at hand… privacy.

    Clearly we as a society are more “public” due to social media, etc. But as we choose to become more public, do we also still have the right to be private. Its the big question at hand.

    And yes, being threatened with legal action is never fun… but perhaps take it as a compliment: You and this site clearly have enough clout to have “warranted” it. I think perhaps you’re a bigger deal than you think you are :)

  4. Your first Cease & Desist letter; it is a right of passage for any business. While being on the receiving end of these documents is never fun, you should look at the big picture. Tribeca Citizen is relevant, has a lot of viewership and therefore warranted the C&D letter. You were also mentioned in the NY Times, so it was quite a week.

  5. Living on the edge… Love it! :) haha

  6. If Arne would just change the title of his series of photographs to “Lazy, Creepy Old Man with a Camera and an Inherited Zoom Lens” he could extend his exhibition for another coupe of weeks. Just saying…..

  7. @Eric, I am sure getting such a letter was disconcerting, but as a parent, I sort of understand their position. Photographs of their kids were taken without consent and are now being distributed openly–not cool, and probably illegal. Their primary beef is no doubt with Svenson ( I don’t blame them), but they were probably advised to send this boiler plate to anyone who assisted in the distribution of those photos. You got the same letter as CNN and it is probably just standard protocol.

  8. @Cami: It still strikes me as an overreaction to what is at most a hypothetical threat. No one thinks Svenson was doing anything with these images beyond making art, right? And the kids’ faces weren’t visible. And their photos are probably all over Facebook or Flickr or whatever, and images can be copied and dispersed like pollen. I understand the parents felt invaded but isn’t it possible that this all makes it worse? Were the kids hurt in any way?

    A different kind of artist might have considered the fallout to be part of the piece — possibly even its point. I don’t think that’s Svenson’s style but IMHO these issues are more provocative than the images themselves.

  9. @Eric there has been more discussion over the fallout than the actual photos, so you are right on that front. The difference between having photos on the internet that you or your friends post and those taken by an old man with a telephoto who shot those without anyone consent is obvious I think. It does make a difference. Does legal action make it worse? Yes, for the short term, but if there is any legal basis for the cease and desist or action against the photographer, Svenson will chose other targets in the future, and hopefully not children. As a parent I would would probably take pretty aggressive action to get unauthorized photos down as quickly and as stridently as possible.

  10. Wow, what an overreaction to what simply could have been taken care of with an email or a phone call. Erik has nothing but good intentions with this site and probably would have been more than reasonable if simply contacted.

    As for the privacy issue, I understand both sides. However, if I walked past my window naked and someone snapped a photograph, I’d think to myself, “Duh, I live in the city. How absent minded of me to walk past my window naked. I’d better close the curtain next time.”

  11. I have absolutely no doubt Eric’s intentions are good. TC enabled us to have a conversation about the photos and the privacy issues, so kudos to Eric for providing that.They have legal representation and I am sure this is what they were advised to do. I don’t think this was personal.

  12. I love this site but I disagree with Erik’s stance. I do think it’s a big deal that someone gets a telephoto lens and snaps pictures into my home. The fact that he waits till my face is turned, does not mean my privacy was not invaded. The artists has made me far more paranoid now and I keep my curtains drawn more often.

    I think there is a very real and substantive difference between glimpsing someone in their apartment, to freezing that moment in a photograph, to displaying that photograph. I don’t want anyone else to think that this is an acceptable way to create a montage. And how many ‘inappropriate’ photos were not shown, but still exist. How many hours did he watch, to fame this right shot? This just feels too stalkerish for me, and I don’t have small children, it’s not about the kids, it’s about a right to privacy in my own home.

  13. And I’d just like to say that I love how civilized this discussion has been! (Even if the catalyst was my possibly childish move of posting the letter.)