Chris Floyd: Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances.

Undocumented Illegal Aliens & The Republican Party Campaign Ads.

Posted in Commissioned Work, Editorial, Me Myself & I by Chris Floyd on October 8, 2010




Anonymous Mexican Men photographed in Altar, Mexico, 2006


About 6.30 this morning, a series of persistent pings on my iphone woke me up. It was  half a dozen emails from friends in America every one of which had a link attached. Each link took me to a different website but it was the same story each time. One of the e-mails was from Sanjiv Battacharya, a British journalist based in LA who I have worked with several times. He was convinced that a photo I took on a story we did together for British GQ in 2006 on The Minutemen, a citizen group concerned about the proliferation of illegal immigrants in the United States, had been used in two different Republican Party TV ad campaigns. The photo (above) is of three young Mexican men in a town square in Altar, Mexico. The TV ads, which are for the senatorial campaigns of Sharron Angle in Nevada and Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, claim that these men are aliens illegally living in the United States. The fact that these men were Mexican citizens photographed in Mexico kind of negates their claims.

The picture was one of several used in the story that ran in British GQ in October 2006. Since then all of the pictures from that trip have resided in the Getty Images News Archive. I know that pictures from the story have been republished elsewhere from time to time but at this stage I do not know for sure if this particular one has been used anywhere else. I also do not know if the two Republican campaigns acquired the picture by legal means from the Getty site (we’re still waiting to find that out) or if they both just lifted it from somewhere else, maybe another magazine, or even my own website which has had the picture on in the past, but I think that is unlikely. Nevertheless, the issue that is bothering me is that the availability of the image via Getty, was supposed to be restricted to editorial use only. I would not classify the usage in these advertisements as editorial.


The opening spread of the story as it appeared in British GQ, October 2006


At this early stage the legal and usage issues are still too uncertain because the facts on how the photo was acquired are not yet known. My feelings on how the picture has been used, however, are quite clear.  Fundamentally, a portrait of three Mexican men taken in Mexico, admittedly in the midst of a story about the Arizona Minutemen and their role in the illegal alien issue has been ripped away from the context of that story and used to portray the men in it as almost satanic modern day reds under the bed.

And to assuage any confusion about the picture, the caption on the Getty website that accompanies the image clearly states that these men were Mexican citizens photographed in their own country.  Nowhere does it say that these men are illegal immigrants in the U.S.  So even if the Republicans downloaded it from Getty they could have seen there and then that the purpose for which they intended to use it was off the mark.

Here’s the caption:

“ALTAR, MEXICO: Mexicans pose for a portrait whilst gathered in the town square of Altar, Mexico. Altar is located 40 miles from the US border and is the last major town that Mexicans reach before the dangerous crossing. Much of its economy is dependant upon these congregated Mexicans who can purchase numerous necessary provisions. The Minutemen, most of whom are white, retired, armed citizens devote much of their time to musters or vigilante border watches in the Arizona desert, preventing Mexican illegal immigrants flooding into the US. These Minutemen, who claim to simply watch and report to the border police, have received criticism for being a cover for white supremacists whilst others hail them as heroes. Either way, they have struck a cord with many Americans who sympathise with their mission to make an impact on the illegal immigrants that are flooding across the Mexican border at a faster rate than ever. It is estimated that around 750,000 illegal immigrants entered America in 2005, amounting to more than 2000 per day, joining the 12 million that already live there. (Photo by Chris Floyd/Getty Images)”

The men I met that morning in the Altar town square told me that they were farmers from the far south of Mexico and that that season’s crop had failed, leaving them with nothing to sell and no option, they felt, but to make the journey north to America to seek work. At the point that photograph was taken not one of them had ever set foot in America, and I have no idea if they ever did.


The picture as it appeared in the original layout



Minuteman, Arizona


What would be great to discover now is that one or all of those dudes are working as gardeners for the Governors of Nevada or Louisiana.

The Washington Post have now written about this after calling me earlier today

I will try to update more on this as the facts are established.

22.24 BST – The news so far on the question of the licence of the image has become a little clearer, if not crystal clear.  I just spoke to Aidan Sullivan a Senior VP at Getty Images and so far they have established that the picture has been licensed twice via the online system in the last 2 years. Once by AOL for a tiny news item and very recently indeed in 2008 by a design firm in Washington DC that do a lot of work for the Republican Party.  However, we only know that the licence they purchased was an editorial one.  For them to acquire a licence allowing usage in a TV ad of this nature they would have had to have contacted a real life human.  Apparently, Getty do have someone in DC who deals exclusively with the political parties and they are looking into the question of whether or not anyone contacted this person for the rights to use it in a TV ad or if that licence was granted.  The question of whether or not I was asked if I had any objections to this kind of usage cannot be raised until we are certain that the firm who licensed the image for editorial use did, in fact, make the right legal moves in gaining an advertising licence.

I’ve now added a wide selection of photographs from the original story, many previously unpublished, to my website.


13 Oct 2010:  Woken up to discover that the Sharron Angle campaign has taken down her ad from youtube.  Not sure about Vitter’s one yet.

Sharron Angle's "Thanks, Pal" ad is now off the internet.


Anonymous Mexican man & son, Altar, Mexico



Illegal migrant just picked up by the Border Patrol, Nogales, Arizona.



Border Patrol agent calls in a sighting of a breach in the fence


33 Responses

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  1. Harpreet Khara said, on October 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Pretty disgusting.
    But after being in America the last few months 100% believable.

    One for the The Colbert Report I think.


  2. Roland Hulme said, on October 8, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Very interesting post.

    I think you have every right to complain about the ‘editorial usage’ part of it – but aside from that, as long as the photo was acquired legally, you really don’t have a leg to stand on. If you want complete control over where, how and when your photos are used, don’t put them up for sale on Getty images.

    I’ve seen the campaign ads and the use of the photo was taken to IMPLY that they men in it were illegal immigrants – they didn’t outright claim “these three men pictured here are illegal immigrants.” The implication might offend you, but that’s really no different to how I’ve used Getty images of smiling, mature couples to use in adverts for an overactive bladder control pharmaceutical. Those models didn’t actually have overactive bladders, but they represented an image that suited the message we were trying to convey. Your photo did the same for the campaign ads.

    • Chris Floyd said, on October 8, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      Roland, you are totally right about the legal aspect. It’s been a sharp and pointed little lesson. However, I do take issue with your argument over “implied” claims. The Sharron Angle ad outright prints the phrase “ILLEGAL ALIENS” right across the photo. That’s not implied. That’s stated.

      • Roland Hulme said, on October 8, 2010 at 5:28 pm

        I don’t know Chris – what did you think of my comparison of using Getty images for an ad about a medical condition? Doesn’t that ‘state’ that the people in the ad suffer from the condition, when they probably don’t?

        The image and copy were aligned to be ‘representative’ – it’s marketing spin and par for the course with a campaign ad. Imagine – we wouldn’t even have been having this discussion if they’d paid Hispanic actors to pose for the photo.

      • Chris Floyd said, on October 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm

        Well, they paid Hispanic actors to run along by a chain link fence at night so why did they not take the opportunity to just snap some pictures of them while they were there, instead of pull a wild card random photo like mine from the haystack?

        As for the medical comparison, don’t they have 1000 words of very small print at the bottom of the as that is so tiny, in fact, you can’t actually read it?

      • CaliK said, on October 16, 2010 at 8:12 pm

        The words in tiny print are for listing side effects and FDA disclaimers. That’s IF they show those words at all during a 15 sec spot.

        Nice try at sidestepping the question.

        I on the other hand take issue with the message Mexicans are the only illegal aliens. It’s the immigration system that needs to be reformed and the laws enforced as all other countries do.

  3. Roland Hulme said, on October 8, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    I just read the Washington Post article – those three men intended to cross the border illegally, according to your article, so in 90% likelihood they ARE illegal immigrants right at this very second. That somewhat undermines the complaint.

    • Chris Floyd said, on October 8, 2010 at 4:28 pm

      They may well be illegal aliens right now. However, no one involved in this argument has any evidence of that. I agree, they had every intention of crossing the border. However, I have no knowledge that they did. For all I know they could have turned back or been killed on the way to the border. The Sharron Angle ad splashes the word “ILLEGAL ALIENS” right across the width of the picture. You and I are both fortunate to live in countries where the burden of proof is on the accuser. Where is Sharron Angle’s proof that those three men are illegally living and working in the United States? Why is she allowed to categorically state that that picture is of illegals when she simply does not have any proof of that? Why not use a silhouette or a picture of some actual deportees or some illegal aliens who have actually been caught? Those men had not been caught because, at that time they had not stepped into the United States, let alone committed a crime in it.

      On another note, does she have their permission, in writing to use their image in a television advertising campaign to market her product? I know she doesn’t, unless she has found them and got them to sign it before turning them in.

  4. Roland Hulme said, on October 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    “Does she have their permission, in writing to use their image in a television advertising campaign to market her product?”

    Do you have their permission, in writing, for their images to be posted for sale on Getty images? And to be used for whatever content they’re sold to (even if it is editorial.) You said they’d been republished elsewhere – did they give their permission then? It’s a bit of a straw man argument unless they did.

    Not trying to put your nose out of joint – it’s an incredible article and the photos are spectacular.

    • Chris Floyd said, on October 8, 2010 at 5:40 pm

      There is a very distinct difference in types of usage. I do not need their permission to publish the picture in an editorial context – newspaper stories, magazine articles etc. As far as I was concerned, the picture was only available for purchase editorially. Still don’t know but they well have downloaded it, ticked the editorial usage box and then used it for an ad. If this is the cse they’re in breach of my copyright and then it’s a whole other legal issue.
      Advertising usage, which is what this is, give the guys in the photo cause to complain legally. They are being represented/misrepresented in an ad for a ‘product’. They well have ticked a box on the Getty site accepting that this picture is not cleared for advertising but were prepared to accept the burden of any claim by taking a view that the 3 men were unlikely to do so. Calculated risk.

      • Roland Hulme said, on October 8, 2010 at 7:41 pm

        I think you make a valid point with the editorial/advertising distinction.

        That being said, and playing Devil’s Advocate – what if Glenn Beck’s so-called ‘newspaper’ Blaze or Flaming or whatever the hell it’s called decided to write an article about illegal immigration and used that photo under editorial usage? Like the campaign ads, it would imply that the people pictured were illegal immigrants (which, let’s be honest, they most likely are) without actually saying so. Newspapers and magazines use Getty images all the time to illustrate articles – with people completely unrelated to the editorial contents – so it’s an entirely realistic scenario.

  5. Harpreet Khara said, on October 8, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Good debate.

    The crux is, that these images were made as reportage and were expected to be classified as such.

    They have been taken out of the original context… without permission.

    Where is the Journalistic Integrity?

    • Roland Hulme said, on October 8, 2010 at 7:37 pm

      Harpreet – they’re campaign ads. REPUBLICAN campaign ads. I think looking for ‘integrity’ might be setting your standards a little high here!

  6. Harpreet Khara said, on October 8, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    LOL, See your point Ron! but I live in England.

    I just came back from California though, where I was subjected to the torturous ads of Whitman vs Jerry Brown at least 10x hour.
    My Mind-boggled that Whitman spent over $100 million of her OWN money on ads.

    In such a litigious society I’m surprised they don’t have small print at the bottom stating this is a representation? These men could have a case.

    Wether they are Illegal, Intending to be Illegal or Green card holders.
    It’s clearly racial profiling/scaremongering aimed at the lowest common denominator.

    Notice how all the smiley graduates are all white, then it switches to the 3 rough-faced dark amigos. Aye Caramba! How tacky.

    Someone gambled on these being 3 long-forgotten non-people.

  7. […] Floyd was shocked to find one of his photographs depicting three Mexicans IN Mexico from a 2006 editorial assignment […]

  8. Tom Broadbent said, on October 9, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Unbelievable really what campaign pr’s think they can get away with. I doubt very much that they obtained an ad license. More likely they ordered the hi res for layout purposes. One of the top brass liked it and someone didn’t have the balls to say. Excuse me we don’t have the rights to use it. Good luck with getting to the bottom of it. Tom

  9. Patty said, on October 9, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Unless you live in areas of the states where illegals run rampant, you will never “get it.” Most of us can’t afford more than two kids, and I see (almost daily at any given store) hispanics with three kids in tow with another in the oven with their shopping carts filled to the max and speak little (if any) English.

    Both sides of political advertising stink. The news is useless from both sides.

    • btezra said, on October 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm

      Wow, it seems like you have bigger issues than just worrying about illegal immigrants

      it appears you have issues w/ “brown people” as you stated Hispanics with three kids in tow with another in the oven with their shopping carts filled to the max and speak little (if any) English

      So, every Hispanic has three kids and is pregnant w/ another as they shop extravagantly muttering Spanish and English?

      Are you really that far gone by drinking radical right wing rhetoric that you have issues w/ anyone who isn’t white?

  10. Any Idiot Can said, on October 11, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Not even remotely surprising. America has become one of the most racist countries in the world, to such an extent you only have to BE Latino to be a gangster or illegal alien. I’m American, and you couldn’t PAY me to live in America again.

    Sorry this happened to you 😦

  11. Leo Sigh said, on October 11, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Pretty par for the course in Amerika nowadays. It’s the land of racist bigots that hates everyone who isn’t white and Christian.

    But, there’s always good news. Amerika is pretty much DONE – it’s on it’s way down, and that can only be a good thing.

  12. […] stand, rather than an issue of cash,” he says. Floyd has posted more detailed information on his blog. var addthis_share = { templates: { twitter: '{{title}} {{url}} via @pdnonline' } } Share […]

  13. btezra said, on October 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    by NOT pursuing these folks legally you further insure that repugnant folks will ignore copyright and continue to use inames illegally, w/out permission and for uses that are not part of stock imagery guidelines

    by you NOT pursuing these political folks you are putting other fotogs at risk for having the same exact thing to them

    why lie down and take this, why not pursue your legal options to ultimately insure that ignorant folks like these two examples do not do this again and do not influence others to do the same thing

    • Chris Floyd said, on October 13, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      I am pursuing my legal options! Why do you think you have read about this in the first place? Because I am publicly calling it out and privately investigating all the legal avenues.

      Thank you.

  14. malinlaney said, on October 14, 2010 at 1:43 am

    I think you got some great images for this series, especially your unflinching portraits of the Minutemen members.

    I just wanted to point out that in your title for this post you use the phrase “undocumented illegal aliens.” In the current state of rhetoric in the US this is actually a contradiction of terms. People who are organizing for immigrant rights always use the term “undocumented immigrants” because they are using the human rights framework that “no human being is illegal” while republicans/conservatives use the term “illegal aliens.” I don’t know if you personally have a political stance on the subject of immigration, but I just thought you might like to know about this if you didn’t already.

  15. Len Wilcox said, on October 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Excellent photography, and you clearly understand rights management issues. It’s a shame the ad agency employed by the Republicans (who are, after all, in the business of making laws) do not understand the law regarding creative rights as well as you do. Thanks for catching them out, and I appreciate your outrage. I hope Jon Stewart hears of this – I’m sure he’d have some interesting words to say.

  16. […] aliens.” Besides invoking offensive anti-Latino stereotypes, the photographer of the photo, Chris Floyd, later informed the Washington Post that the “illegal aliens” in the picture were […]

  17. […] aliens.” Besides invoking offensive anti-Latino stereotypes, the photographer of the photo, Chris Floyd, later informed the Washington Post that the “illegal aliens” in the picture were actually […]

  18. […] leave a comment » What happens when your images are used out of context?     About 6.30 this morning, a series of persistent pings on my iphone woke me up. It was  half a dozen emails from friends in America every one of which had a link attached. Each link took me to a different website but it was the same story each time. One of the e-mails was from Sanji … Read More […]

  19. scott said, on October 19, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks for posting this man, I really hope this is publicized more and these campaigns are made to pay. This happens way too much —- unauthorized photo usages, and songs used by politicians without acquiring the license, as well. Only until there is some sort of stiff penalty and awareness is made about copyright law will anything ever change. If there is no penalty what is the motivation for even licensing an image correctly in the first place?

    And I thought Republicans are “pro-business?” Photographers, and licensing agencies, are businesses too, and this is outright stealing from business if they didn’t acquire the proper license. Not to mention the whole “immoral” aspect.

    Please keep us updated.

    Amazing photos, by the way!

  20. […] on the subject of Getty Images ongoing tussle, on my behalf, with the Republican Party over a portrait I made in 2006 of three young Mexican gentlemen in the town of Altar, Mexico.  For those of you […]

  21. P.J. Rafter said, on October 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    ‘Proof if proof were needed that America’s religious right is made up of liars, thieves, racists and hypocrites . . .
    There just are no depths too low for them to wallow in!
    If you’re unable, for any reason, to sue the shit out them I’ll be disappointed.

  22. veronicares said, on May 4, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Reblogged this on veronicares.

  23. […] on the subject of Getty Images ongoing tussle, on my behalf, with the Republican Party over a portrait I made in 2006 of three young Mexican gentlemen in the town of Altar, Mexico.  For those of you […]

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