Photographer

Can I Sue a Fellow Photographer for Producing Pictures That Look Just Like Mine? + Other Artists’-Rights Questions, Answered


Have you ever wondered what your rights are as an artist? There’s no clear-cut textbook to consult—but we’re here to help. Katarina Feder, a vice president at Artists Rights Society, is answering questions of all sorts about what kind of control artists have—and don’t have—over their work. 

Do you have a query of your own? Email [email protected] and it may get answered in an upcoming article. 

 

I’m a decently successful photographer who has made her sorta-name through large-format photographs of skateboarders and their injuries. Imagine my surprise when I visited a high-end skate shop recently and discovered a photograph that was like one of mine but not taken by me. Someone’s stealing my schtick. Can I sue?

I watched skateboarding in the Tokyo Olympics and it seems like injuries are a big growth industry. Those guys fall a lot

All kidding aside, I’m sorry to tell you that you probably have little legal recourse here. In the U.S., copyright is only applicable for works “fixed in any tangible medium of expression,” which means that ideas, from highbrow concepts for dinner parties to the conceit for a series of paintings, cannot be copyrighted. You hold the copyright to your photographs from the moment you develop them, but the general idea behind them isunfortunately, in this case—up for grabs. 

This issue recently came to light with a photograph that pop star Olivia Rodrigo staged to promote her “Sour Prom” concert, which was more than reminiscent of the cover for the 1994 Hole album Live Through This. In it, Rodrigo wears the same style crown and carries the same kind of flowers as the woman from the Hole album cover, and her makeup is applied in a similarly vertical style. Rodrigo later spun this as an homage, though she didn’t tag Courtney Love or the original photographer, Ellen von Unwerth, in her Instagram post of the photo. It smelled fishy, and not at all like teen spirit, but in the New York Times, von Unwerth acknowledged that there’s little more she can do than be annoyed about it

That said, lawsuits are not the only venue for retribution in matters such as these (for more on that, see the answer to our next question). When it comes to “who did it first” or “who did it better,” social media is a powerful force. Consider the backlash when Juergen Teller shot Rhianna for Vogue and many thought that he unfairly appropriated the style of Mickalene Thomas. The court of public opinion is quite vocal these days. You can always try to make your case there.

What Pornhub's "Classic Nudes" page looked like when it launched last month...

What Pornhub’s “Classic Nudes” page looked like when it launched last month…

I read the New York Post every morning, but even my hardened sensibilities were shocked by their reporting on Pornhub’s latest P.R. stunt: an app that takes you to the dirtiest nude paintings in any given museum and then animates them with pornographic actors. How is this legal on any level? 

When it comes to copyright, I may be a bit of a prude—but when works are in the public domain, I’m all for getting a little loose. Which is why I got such a kick out of Pornhub’s newest venture, the re-imagining of European masterpieces, pornography-style, in the hopes that tourists add them to their list of MILVs (Museums I’d Like to Visit). And the legality? Oh, it’s all legal (though that hasn’t kept Pornhub out of trouble—more on that in a bit).

Here’s why: As we’ve established, copyright only exists for the duration of the life of the creator plus an additional 70 years post-mortem. After that, the works are in the “public domain,” an image that conjures a grassy field on which anyone may graze their cattle. 

And graze Pornhub has, hiring actors from the My Sweet Apple adult entertainment troupe to advance the plot, as it were, on paintings like Courbet’s The Origin of the World (1866) which hangs at the Musée d’Orsay, along with other works from the collections at the Met, the National Gallery, and the Prado, among others. It was an odd thing to spend one’s advertising budget on, and seems designed to outrage art historians, but since the works in question have aged out of copyright protection, the museums have little grounds for a lawsuit. 

Still, that didn’t stop the Louvre from threatening, or the Uffizi from sending Pornhub a cease and desist letter. Seemingly spooked, the site wiped all of the art-inspired porn from its site, and many of the artworks that inspired it, leaving just a few lonely Impressionist paintings to stimulate what we can only guess is a very specific segment of its audience. 

Left to right: K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford and Ian Hill of Judas Priest perform on stage - Unleashed In The East album cover session taken in July 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

Left to right: K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton, Rob Halford and Ian Hill of Judas Priest perform on stage in July 1979. (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)

I was reading an interview with Stephen King, and he said that he had originally included the lyrics from the song “You Got Another Thing Coming” by the English heavy metal band Judas Priest as an epigram in his 2008 novel Duma Key. But, he said, “they [the band] came back and said that they wanted $50,000 plus royalties. And I said, ‘Fuck that shit! That’s not going to happen.’ So I made us a doggerel of my own.” Why would it cost that much money to print lyrics from a song? 

Knowing Stephen King’s reverence for classic rock and his massive success as a creator, it is kind of surprising that he chose not to pay the $50,000 (and that he was able to approximate the soaring lyrical heights of “You Got Another Thing Coming”!). 

When it comes to copyright for songs, the music industry really uses the whole buffalo. There are broadcast rights if you’d like to play the song on T.V., performance rights if you’d like to play the song at a political rally, and there are print rights if you want to reproduce lyrics or sheet music. These are useful when it comes to epigrams, merchandising, and printing lyrics on soda cans.

Breaking down rights this way can be useful when different people are responsible for writing the lyrics and music, the way Elton John and Bernie Taupin used to do it. (In this case, Judas Priest appears to have collectively dashed off the track to fill out their 1982 album Screaming for Vengeance, so they would all presumably share the $50,000 royalty.) 

As to why this particular license cost so much, I can only estimate that the bill was based on projected sales for King’s book. Print rights for lyrics usually break down to one cent per unit, and it wouldn’t be unexpected for King to sell five million copies. Though with the Delta variant surging, I would personally recommend The Stand—the title for which is, of course, based on a Bruce Springsteen lyric.

Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/ AFP via Getty Images.

Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/ AFP via Getty Images.

I’ve heard that Black TikTok creators are on strike. Does TikTok not own their content? Do these creators have a union? How does that work? 

It’s true that TikTok is one of the more confusing social media platforms. It’s more about lip synching and dancing than it is about political arguments with strangers, and if you want to show off an outfit, you have to jump in the air to change into it first. When in Rome!

The fact that dance is one of the major means of communication on TikTok means that its top creators have found a loophole to the perennial problem of social media, which is that the companies usually own all the content you post on their platforms. (To see this play out, consider the case of the Black photographers who recently sued Buzzfeed for embedding their Instagram BLM protest photos in a story.) 

Dance, however, is different. While TikTok owns the rights to the videos, they do not own the rights to the dances therein. This is new territory for copyright, since dance has only recently become lucrative enough to fight over thanks to social media and, of all things, Fortnite

When we last touched on this subject, the choreographer for the “Single Ladies” video, JaQuel Knight, had recently copyrighted the famous hand-flip dance. But even if other choreographers followed suit, many of them would lack the ability to enforce copyright over their dances. Enter: the TikTok strike.

Uniting under the hashtag #BlackTikTokStrike, Black creators refused to develop dances for newly released music because, they say, their hard work has too often been appropriated (especially by famous white TikTokers) without credit. A Washington Post article points to two dances created by Black TikTok users that were subsequently appropriated by the TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, a 17-year-old who is not only not Black, but also from Connecticut.

And while there’s no union or formal strike, observers suggest the effort is already having an impact. They note that the blackout is a major reason Megan Thee Stallion’s new song, “Thot Shit,” has failed to take flight on TikTok. 

With this in mind, I would encourage creators to start copyrighting their dances before they debut them. It’s a necessary first step before a lawsuit—plus, I like the idea of copyright lawyers across the country having to bone up on their Tootsie Slides.

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A Photographer Says He Shot the Highest-Resolution Images Ever Taken of Snowflakes—See the Stunning Pictures Here


You’ve probably heard that no two snowflakes are alike—but you’ve never seen crystal formations in such stunning detail as in a trio of three new photographs by Nathan Myhrvold, who claims to have captured the world’s highest-resolution images of snow.

The challenges of photographing snowflakes are obvious. Both fragile and tiny, measuring just a few millimeters across, a snowflake can melt in seconds—which is why Myhrvold shot on location, in temperatures of up to 20 degrees below zero in Fairbanks, Alaska, and Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

A former Microsoft CTO-turned food photographer, Myhrvold spent 18 months designing and building a custom snowflake camera that would allow him to immortalize the delicate, lacy structure of snowflakes in remarkable detail.

“Snowflakes are a great example of hidden beauty,” Myhrvold said in a statement. “Water, an incredibly familiar thing to all of us, is quite unfamiliar when you see it in this different view. The intricate beauty of snowflakes derives from their crystal structure, which is a direct reflection of the microscopic aspects of the water molecule.”

Nathan Myhrvold, No Two Alike. Photo courtesy of Modernist Cuisine Gallery.

Nathan Myhrvold, No Two Alike. Photo courtesy of Modernist Cuisine Gallery.

To keep the snowflake intact for as long as possible, Myhrvold incorporated a cooling stage into the camera on which to shoot the specimens. He opted for pulsed high-speed LED lights on the microscope, which eliminates both heat transfer and vibrations, which could destroy the specimen or blur the photograph.

The whole device, which includes an artificial sapphire lens, is built from carbon fiber, which won’t grow or shrink in extreme temperatures. The pictures are shot with a shutter speed of just 500 microseconds.

Nathan Myhrvold, Yellowknife Flurry. Photo courtesy of Modernist Cuisine Gallery.

Nathan Myhrvold, Yellowknife Flurry. Photo courtesy of Modernist Cuisine Gallery.

It’s perhaps the biggest breakthrough in the admittedly limited field of snowflake photography since Vermont farmer Wilson A. Bentley attached a camera to his microscope and took the world’s first photo of these evanescent crystals as a teenager in 1885.

Nicknamed Snowflake Bentley, he went on to create 5,000 photographs of what he called “ice flowers,” donating 500 to the Smithsonian Institution, and featuring 2,600 more in his 1931 book Snow Crystals. (His work is also included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York, among other institutions.)

A snowflake photograph by Wilson A. Bentley, the first person to capture an individual snowflake on film. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

A snowflake photograph by Wilson A. Bentley, the first person to capture an individual snowflake on film. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Ninety years later, snowflakes remain an astonishing example of natural beauty, if we only look hard enough.

“Most snowflakes, numerically, are not perfect dendrite beauties; they’re a fairly simple hexagonal rod or plate,” Myhrvold told My Modern Met. “That can change extremely suddenly, though, and that’s when you go from boring plates to seeing something amazing. So you have to quickly mobilize to get the shot.”

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Meet Lawrence Jackson, the Photographer Chronicling Kamala Harris’s Historic Vice-Presidency + Other Stories


Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Thursday, January 21.

NEED-TO-READ

Disgraced Socialite Fêted With Two Museums – The local government of Cuenca, Spain, has financed the creation of two spaces to showcase the collection of the financier and Cuban-American art collector Roberto Polo. Officials have been noticeably quiet, however, about Polo’s shady past, which includes a prison term following his embroilment in a $130 million art-fraud lawsuit. The Spanish government has agreed to insure the collection and provide the exhibition space and an annual budget in return for a 15-year loan of nearly 450 works from Polo’s modern and contemporary art trove. (New York Times)

Vogue Releases Special Inauguration Edition Harris Cover – Following backlash over the cover image of its February issue, Vogue announced that it will publish a limited-edition inauguration version of the magazine featuring a more formal portrait of the new VP. “Obviously we have heard and understood the reaction to the [original] print cover,” editor-in-chief Anna Wintour said. “And I just want to reiterate that it was absolutely not our intention to, in any way, diminish the importance of the vice president-elect’s incredible victory.” (Complex)

Meet the Photographer Documenting Harris’s Historic Term – That’s not the only VP Harris photo news of the day. The photographer Lawrence Jackson has been named Vice President Kamala Harris’s official photographer. Jackson was staff photographer to Harris on the campaign trail, and was previously a staff photographer in the White House during Barack Obama’s administration. At the time, he was the only Black photographer on staff. President Obama penned the forward for his 2019 book, Yes We Did: Photos and Behind-the-Scenes Stories Celebrating Our First African American President. (Culture Type)

Penn Station Is Now an Art Destination – The new, art-filled Moynihan Train Hall has managed to thrill weary New Yorkers. “It’s like an icon of the city,” said one visitor. “Already.” Tourists have been drawn to the space after seeing photos of installations by artists such as Elmgreen & Dragset on Instagram. A week after the opening, one Amtrak police officer was overhead calling it “the coolest place in New York right now.” (New York Times)

ART MARKET

Almine Rech Opens a Second Paris Gallery – The contemporary art dealer is expanding her presence in Paris with a second space on the gallery-lined Avenue Matignon. The new space opens today with an exhibition of work by the market-ascendant American artist Kenny Scharf called “Vaxi Nation.” (WWD)

A Dealer’s Works on Paper Head to Christie’s – A trove of works on paper from the family of London art dealer Thomas Gibson are heading to the block on March 1 with a combined value of around $16 million. Highlights include Vincent van Gogh’s La Mousmé (1888), expected to fetch between $7 million and $10 million, and Lucian Freud’s Self-portrait (1974), estimated at $1.8 million to $2.5 million. (Financial Times)

COMINGS & GOINGS

Surrealist Trove Donated to Rotterdam Museum – Collectors Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong have gifted the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen with a massive library of Surrealist books and paintings. The gift, which includes a whopping 4,000 publications as well as the 50 Surrealist paintings the pair has donated to the museum since 2017, will form the basis of a new research center focusing on Surrealism to open in 2026. (The Art Newspaper)

Chicago Pledges $2.5 Million to Local Arts – Chicago’s department of cultural affairs is giving out $2.5 million in grants to local artists and arts organizations. The newly launched Artist Response Program is now accepting proposals for public art commissions with budgets ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. (Hyperallergic)

FOR ART’S SAKE

Hank Willis Thomas Teams Up With Designer Sacai – The artist Hank Willis Thomas has joined forces with the fashion brand Sacai on its pre-spring and men’s spring/summer 2021 collections. Designer Chitose Abe wanted to work with the artist and activist to evoke themes of peace, love, and unity. Willis Thomas invited friends and family, including his wife, curator Rujeko Hockley, to pose for the campaign. (Yahoo News)

Rem Koolhaas Designs Constructivist Rooms for Prada – In other art-fashion crossover news, the Dutch architect and theorist has designed the set for Prada’s fall/winter 2021 menswear presentation. The abstract tableau is made up of four colorful geometric rooms in different shapes connected by square doorways. (Dezeen)

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Photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya Is Selling $250 Prints to Help Save a Beloved LGBTQ+ Nightclub in Los Angeles


In Los Angeles, photographer and artist Paul Mpagi Sepuya is pitching in to help save a beloved LGBTQ+ bar.

Akbar, in Silver Lake, has been around since 1994 but, like many businesses, has been shuttered since March. In December, owners Peter Alexander and Scott Craig asked for help via GoFundMe.

“Hundreds of queer businesses are closing,” they wrote. “How many of those queer business will be reborn as queer when the pandemic is over? Community matters, safe space matters.”

Their community seemed to agree. A wave of small donations helped Akbar meet its initial $150,000 target in a matter of days, calling attention to the powerful role it has played as a gathering space. “It’s not just a place to drink alcohol,” Linda Santiman, who met her wife Michelle on the Akbar dance floor, told NBC News at the time. “We need our neighborhood spaces.”

But Los Angeles is now the most active hotspot for the coronavirus in the United States, and lockdown will likely drag on for months more. At the end of last month, Akbar upped its fundraising target to $250,000 to help pay staff and keep up with its mortgage and other expenses through 2021. Sepuya, an Akbar regular, is lending a hand.

The artist’s work, which has been featured at the most recent Whitney Biennial, among other prominent exhibitions, is a particularly good fit. He’s known for set-up photographs that directly address community and queer intimacy, capturing moments of collaboration with his subjects in his studio.

“The spirit of this print edition is that of a gift to say thank you to donors, to encourage giving, and, for me, as a way to give back to the community that has formed through Akbar,” Sepuya said in a statement about the Artists for Akbar fundraiser.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, <em> Drop Scene Study (0X5A1118)</em>, Archival Pigment Print, Unlimited Edition.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Drop Scene Study (0X5A1118), Archival Pigment Print, Unlimited Edition.

The work, Drop Scene Study (0X5A1118), is being offered in the form of an open edition print through January 31. Supporters can make a donation of $250 (or more) to Akbar’s GoFundMe and then send the receipt to artists[at]saveakbar.com. Prints will be shipped in February.

After experiencing the unexpected wave of generosity, Alexander and Craig, the owners, have decided to pay it forward by giving 20 percent of the new funds to the [email protected] Coalition, a nationally recognized nonprofit that provides support for transgender, gender-nonconforming, and intersex immigrant women.

A few days ago, Eater LA published a piece titled “LA’s Historic and Vital Queer Nightlife Community Is Disappearing Due to Coronavirus.” Illustrating the breadth of the need in the face of the current moment, Sepuya expanded the support he was offering to include New Jalisco Bar, another LA hub for queer nightlife.

New Jalisco is trying to raise $80,000 to avoid eviction. Sepuya is offering the same print for those who give a $250 donation to New Jalisco’s GoFundMe and forward the receipt to solidarity[at]paulsepuya.com.

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‘The Police Didn’t Know What Was Going to Happen’: 5 Photographers on What It Was Like to Document the Storming of the US Capitol


What has historically been the routine task of ratifying the results of the US presidential election devolved into unprecedented chaos on Wednesday as insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, overrunning law enforcement and vandalizing the building in a brazen attempt to interrupt the proceedings.

Urged on by President Donald Trump at a rally outside the White House, and fueled by the false belief that the election results are fraudulent, the protesters became an invading force, waving Confederate flags and neo-Nazi banners at the seat of US democracy.

The mob was eventually cleared off the premises and Congress resumed its session, certifying the election of Joe Biden in the wee hours of the night. But the uprising marked the first time since the British invaded during the War of 1812 that Washington was so overrun.

The scene was documented by a fearless press corps that braved tear gas, pepper spray, and attacks to record the day’s events, which so far have left five dead. We spoke to five photographers about their experiences capturing this dark moment in US history.

 

A group of pro-Trump protesters raise a giant America Flag on the West grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

A group of pro-Trump protesters raise a giant America Flag on the West grounds of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

Over the summer, I shot 38 consecutive days of protests in Louisville, Kentucky, related to the Breonna Taylor killing. I knew there was going to be an insurrection attempt of some kind just based off of the online chatter from Trump supporters such as the Proud Boys.

I originally pitched it to Getty and they said their coverage needs were already fulfilled. But I made the nine-and-a-half hour drive anyway. This was actually my first time visiting Washington, DC. The night before, my editors said they actually did need some coverage help, so they assigned me an area to be on the east lawn.

I have a press pass that’s attached to my bullet proof vest. Dozens of people came up to me asking who I was with, and if I was Antifa. I would tell them I was shooting for Getty Images. They would say, “that sounds like fake news to me.”

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

Pro-Trump protesters gather in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

As a Black member of the media, I have often found myself the target of harassment from these far-right groups. When I was taking photographs of Proud Boys before they started marching, one of them started fake coughing and sneezing on me without a mask.

I spoke to one of the Proud Boys, named Billy. He said he stuck up for me because some of the others thought I wasn’t really media, and that I was Antifa and was going to try to attack them. I was there with other media and I gave no sign that I was different than them other than the color of my skin. It’s a very uncomfortable position for [Black members of the media] to be in.

But I joined the Proud Boys in their formation as they marched from the west side of the Capitol to the east side of the Capitol. They started getting each other riled up, screaming and chanting. Some of them announced that it was time to rush the Capitol.

A member of a pro-Trump mob bashes an entrance of the Capitol Building in an attempt to gain access on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Trump supporters gathered in the nation's capital today to protest the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

A member of a pro-Trump mob bashes an entrance of the Capitol Building. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

At this point, it was pretty obvious the police didn’t know what was going to happen. They tried as hard as they could to keep the barriers intact, but eventually the Proud Boys made their way in.

I had a faulty gas mask, so I didn’t even wear it. Fortunately I wear glasses, so the pepper spray didn’t get into my eyes, but it still makes you cough and sneeze pretty heavily. The tear gas wasn’t as powerful; it just had kind of an itching burn in my lungs.

Another thing that leads me to believe the police were not prepared for this potential insurrection is that they didn’t even have gas masks on. They were suffering the effects of their own tear gas and their own pepper spray.

A group of pro-Trump rioters wave flags from a platform on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. A pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and clashing with police officers. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

A group of pro-Trump rioters on the Capitol Building. Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.

The level of violence that was happening at that point, with melee weapons and projectiles—the only thing that wasn’t happening yet was gunfire. I didn’t want to end up in position where there were live rounds going off inside the Capitol building, and I didn’t have a way out. So I stood at entrances and took photos.

There is a shot that describes the day quite well. I took it from the west pavilion, inside one of the tunnels. There are crowds inside and it’s very dark, and one of the platforms outside is stuffed banister to banister with Trump supporters. In the foreground, all you see is the tops of the heads of all of the people with the tunnel who are shrouded in shadow. There’s a natural frame from the ornate stonework of the tunnel. I was very intentional about that composition, and it turned out exactly how I wanted it.

 

Rioters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> via Getty Images.

Rioters at the Capitol. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

My plan was to start out at the rally near the White House and to make my way back to the hill for the certification, but once they marched to the Capitol, it took on a life as its own.

I initially started out on the west side of the Capitol, but a line of law enforcement officers was blocking the mob from getting access initially. I walked around to the east side right as they were about to breach the doors.

It didn’t seem like there was much of a plan. Some of them came in with full tactical gear and zip-tie handcuffs. But most seemed just intent on getting in, because that’s what the mob mentality was saying they should do.

Rioters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> via Getty Images.

Rioters gather to storm the Capitol. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

I was definitely surprised that they made it all the way in. When I came around the side of the building, I was honestly shocked that they were even on the steps. It honestly didn’t settle in until I saw the doors open and that wave of people starting pouring in. At some point I got locked in with a group of people.

I basically felt myself being carried by the flow of the mob into the Capitol. I have a hill credential, so I am allowed to be there.

I wasn’t fearful—I had so much adrenaline pumping through my system, I didn’t have time to think about that. The paper outfitted me with gear. I had a helmet, ballistic body armor, and a gas mask, and ballistic eye gear and a respirator. I was misted with pepper spray a bunch of times and my skin felt like it was on fire.

Rioters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> via Getty Images.

Rioters gather at the Capitol. Photo by Kent Nishimura for the Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

The scene inside was chaotic. People were going in every direction. They were writing on walls and knocking over and destroying equipment that was set up for the vote. There was shattered glass on the floor.

The weirdest thing that I noticed was that a lot of them were just taking selfies of themselves in the building. They literally just broke into a federal building and now they are documenting the act!

A shattered window pane in the aftermath of a pro-Trump invasion of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

A shattered window pane in the aftermath of a pro-Trump invasion of the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images.

I took photo of a window on the east door, you could see the crack on the bullet proof glass and I caught the reflection of the American flag in the window, and the crack is right over. And you can see some of the residue of the pepper spay projectiles on the door.

It was an after-the-moment image, but it felt very poignant and really summarized the mood, in a metaphorical sense, of what had happened that day.

 

A Trump supporter waves a flag as he stands on a government vehicle in front of the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6, 2021. Demonstrators breeched security and entered the capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

A Trump supporter waves a flag. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images.

I’m the editor of photography at AFP, which has about 10 or 11 staff photographers across the country. As a wire photographer, you get thrown into any situation, and you have to be able to produce. Six or seven of us were working that day.

We knew the president was speaking early, and that his supporters would be there early, so some photographers started in the morning. I had pulled the afternoon shift. In the past, people tend to start to get really aggressive and fight as the day drags on. So my job was to come on at 3 p.m. and see which way the night went.

You can see the Capitol all the way down at the Washington Monument. As soon as I got onto the mall, I could see that the press risers set up ahead of the inauguration had been taken over and the protesters had made it all the way onto the steps. You could see a thin line of police further up watching them but not doing anything.

Since I arrived late, my colleagues got much better photos of the riots with the tear gas being used. My one picture that for me captured the day was the noose someone had set up on the National Mall. It was a large structure. They wrote on the side of it “this is art.” There were a lot of people who just loved it.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather on the West side of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021. Rioters breeched security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynold/AFP via Getty Images.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather at the US Capitol. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynold/AFP via Getty Images.

I have had a lot of people saying on social media that it was fake, that it never happened, that I Photoshopped it, that nobody would do that. They want evidence; they’re like “send me more angles.” People didn’t want to believe that’s what was out there and that people were responding to it positively.

There was a lot of aggression toward the police, a lot of cussing them, telling them to go “f” themselves, saying that the police are turncoats and traitors.

In the evening, when things were quieting down, there was a Trump supporter yelling at the cops. He said “This isn’t over. We’re going to be back, and next time we’re going to bring our guns. I’m gonna see you from 60 yards away, but you’re not gonna see me”—in the sense of a scope and a rifle. He kept repeating that to the police: “You betrayed us. I’m coming for you.”

Members of the DC National Guard. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

Members of the DC National Guard. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images.

The people who were trying to take over the Capitol, they really believed in what they were doing and they were ready for a fight. My general sense was that they felt justified in their reaction.

On a macro scale, it was very similar to protests I’ve been to in the past and the experience of being in an aggressive crowd. But when was the last time that the Capitol was invaded? It was in the 1800s. The significance of what we were witnessing stood out more than anything I’ve ever covered in my career.

 

Tayfun Coskun, Anadolu Agency

Security forces respond to rioters storming the US Capitol. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Security forces respond to rioters storming the US Capitol. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

I have been covering protests and rallies for many years. 2020 was so busy for me with COVID-19, protests and riots. The most memorable images that I captured the were of the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting in Kenosha.

After what I saw happen in the Kenosha riots, I think I was already expecting what was coming. They seemed so angry and frustrated. But as a Turkish American, I was kind of surprised.

I started my day at 5 a.m. at President Trump’s “Save America March” event. After filing the photos from my office, I heard about lockdown of the Capitol. I ran almost 1.5 miles to get there. I saw the massive crowd was heading to the US Capitol building. I wasn’t expecting the crowd would break into the building.

The photo that I took from the scaffolding in the center shows all the crowds with a wide angle, and tells [the story of the day]. I climbed up a tiny ladder [to get up there]. I held on every step very tight.

US President Donald Trumps supporters invade the Capitol building in Washington, DC, on January 06, 2021. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Donald Trump’s supporters invade the Capitol building. Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

As a journalist, I did not feel any animosity. They were mostly angry about the network TVs like CNN, AP, FOX—whoever they think is on Biden’s side. But they also attacked some journalists who were wearing all black and looked like Antifa—which they were not. My friend took a video of the crowd attacking and throwing a New York photojournalist who was dressed up all black and with a gas mask.

When I see they were breaking the media’s equipment, I felt really sad for those journalists. It could have happened to me too. You can cover the expense of the equipment, but you cannot get back your exertion, work, labor etc. I feel really sorry to them. Hope they got their SD and CF cards from the cameras…

 

"Supporters

I was planning to shoot a rally at 5 p.m., but when I heard that the Capitol had been breached, I grabbed my stuff to go.

I saw throngs and throngs of people all over the lawn and scaling the walls. There were just flags everywhere. It was so dense and thick. Everything was trampled and everyone was swarming. It was very overwhelming and a little bit frightening.

My first reaction, my eyes just welled up with tears. Congress is the center of our legislative process. It’s hallowed; it’s historic. Our elected officials work there to make laws and protect our constitution. They work for the American people, for all sides. It represents the values that are sacred to the United States. Our systems may be imperfect, but that is the place that we try to make this country the best that it can be. Seeing this mob scene and people trying to break in and wreak havoc on the foundation of our American democracy, I was very distraught.

I was listening to the people in the crowd, and they thought they were going to show the world that the election was rigged. I don’t know what they thought they were going to do inside the halls of Congress, but for them, this breach was somehow a great patriotic act to preserve fairness and election integrity in this country.

Tear gas is fired at supporters of President Trump who stormed the United States Capitol building. Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for the Washington Post.

Tear gas is fired at supporters of President Trump who stormed the United States Capitol building. Photo by Evelyn Hockstein for the Washington Post.

I knew I wasn’t going to get inside the Capitol, so I felt like should aim for a wider shot. [As I went through the crowd,] I got these guys with neo-Nazi flags firing off colored smoke from atop the walls, and photos of people scaling the walls.

After I had been shooting for awhile, my inclination was that I should move soon and try to get something different. But it was very hard to work through that crowd, so I knew I wasn’t necessarily going to get somewhere else that was better. And I could see the police were making a move to get people off the Capitol grounds.

It was getting dark, and they started firing tear gas. There was one shot where the tear gas went off and I thought “oh my gosh.”

Here’s the United States Capitol and this guy with his arms up and a Trump flag, and other people are fleeing… I knew that image was going to resonate. It captured the drama of the day, even though it was not the people storming in. It showed the scope and size and scale of the events that had happened.

 

Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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