My Photo in People Magazine

UPDATE: Please see the end of this post for the resolution to this matter, which makes People look a lot better and makes me look a whole lot worse.

People's Holiday IssueNever having bought the magazine, I’ve seen People frequently on newsstands, as well as in its regular appearance in the tell-tale bump category. This week’s cover features Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “unflattering beach photos,” which, until now, I’d simply assumed were taken by some lucky paparazzo and auctioned off for a handsome paycheck. Now, personal experience seems to suggest the photos simply ran without credit or payment of any kind. Now, I know this accusation sounds ludicrous against such a reputable periodical, but before you accuse me of libel, please hear my side of the story.

It all began on October 19, when I was approached by a representative of the Photo Department at People regarding the use of this photo in a “holiday special” issue of the magazine. I was told:

Although I do not have a budget for any sort of payment for usage of images, I would be happy to give a photo credit and send a couple of issues.

That deal sounded pretty fair, considering I’d already assigned a fairly generous Creative Commons license to the image, so I responded with a resounding “Sure!” and considered myself duly flattered.

Since then, I’d kind of forgotten about the whole thing and kind of assumed the picture didn’t actually make it into print (I work in publishing and am savvy enough to know how these things work, so I didn’t get my hopes up), until today, when I received a letter and “tear sheet,” notifying me of my photo’s presence in the recent Holiday issue. Here’s that letter:

Letter from People Magazine's Photo Department

Though I wasn’t exactly crushed to be denied my comp copy of a magazine I’ve never actually paid for, it struck me as exceedingly cheap that they couldn’t pony up a single copy for use of a free image in the magazine, especially given that was the deal we agreed upon. Still, that didn’t bother me as much as the other agreed-upon term that People failed to meet. Here’s that “tear sheet” mentioned in the letter:

My Photo in People Magazine

Notice something missing? I was hoping at the very least that I’d be getting calls from people (who, I have no idea, but I’m sure somebody I know, besides my wife, reads People) who were so very impressed to see my photo in the pages of such an esteemed publication. But now it seems I’m denied even that small amount of fame promised for such a modest snapshot.

So, let this be a lesson to everyone seeking fame in the hallowed pages of People: you likely will not be credited for your work. My sour grapes are as modest as the image used, and I probably wouldn’t have refused permission even if I’d known how the whole thing would turn out (it’s still a pretty good story, I think). But I reserve the right to my justified, if minor, indignation.

UPDATE: I just received a very kind email from my contact in People‘s Photo Department, which I must admit makes me feel embarrassed and guilty for jumping the gun on this one:

As I mentioned, I have been in search myself (as one of the editors of the magazine) for the Holiday issues, here in the office. Apparently, they did not print enough to give to the editors to send out to our participants. I do apologize and will keep searching for a copy of the issue that I can forward to ALL. I’ve even checked in my supermarket to find it sold out. I had every intention of sending you a copy, but was only able to steal one from my editor, in order to make xeroxes. As far as the credit, it is there. I did not check, but perhaps the layout was cut off. I am attaching a pdf file of the layout which shows the full layout with credit. Thank you again for your submission, I think it looks great, and everyone loved the sculptures.

The free copy wasn’t ever as big of an issue for me as the credit, so I’m happy to hear that, though it was cut off in the scan she sent to me in the mail, my name is indeed there in the gutter, as shown here:

Credit Given

I’d like to apologize to People and my contact there. I no longer feel betrayed, and I’m sorry for posting my disappointment without first following up with them about my concerns in the first place, which is how this sort of thing really should be handled.