Emily Ratajkowski has a modeling and acting career that began a little over 10 years ago. He has done several photo shoots for magazines such as Sports Illustrated, GQ or Vogue and has participated in some feature films such as Gone Girl by David Fincher and In Darkness by Anthony Byrne. But it was the music video for Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams’ song Blurred Lines that pushed her to stardom in 2013.
In an essay published on The Cut, a website owned by New York magazine, the 29-year-old model embarks on a journey through her past and reveals several moments in her life that have gradually resulted in the loss of the right to her image. . Emily begins by situating the reader in 2019, when she posted on her Instagram a photograph taken by a paparazzo and was treated to 150 thousand dollars (about 126 thousand euros).
Photograph taken by a paparazzo and posted by Emily on her Instagram Emily Ratajkowski
The model explains that she did this because she liked the message in the image, where her face is not visible because of the bouquet of flowers she is holding, which she considered representative of his relationship with the paparazzi. Since 2013, when he first rose to prominence for the Blurred Lines music video, which “is used to tall men suddenly appearing in the middle of cars or behind bends, with glazed black holes in place of their faces”.
At stake is the photographer’s copyright which, according to Mário Serra Pereira, a law graduate and author of several articles on the relationship between image and law, overlaps with Emily’s image. “There is a very blurred line between what is allowed and what is not. In Portugal we see many situations of photographs of this nature and not all of them pose problems ”, explains the trainer of the Academia Olhares, adding that“ here a very delicate limit is placed: where the privacy of a public figure ends in public. “
Then Emily goes back in time, to 2016, and reveals that when she visited a Richard Prince exhibit – the Richard Prince Instagram paintings – he came across an image from her Instagram page on display in the gallery. The exhibitions of this artist consist of a series of enlarged photographs of several Instagram pages, commented by himself.
If the model wanted a photo of a photo published by her on her social network, she would have to pay 80 thousand dollars (about 67 thousand euros). “It seemed strange to me that I had to redeem an image of myself – especially the one I posted on Instagram, which until then I thought was the only place I could control how I present myself to the world. A vestige of my autonomy.
Emily next to a second painting by Richard Prince, given to the model by this Emily Ratajkowski
Finally, the young actress reveals the most central point of her essay. To this end, the reader is even further in the past, until 2012, when Emily was only 20 years old and began to consolidate her modeling career. Her agent at the time arranged a photoshoot in New York with photographer Jonathan Leder. The photographs would be published in the Swedish magazine Darius.
Emily got on a plane in Los Angeles and met Jonathan in Woodstock, about 170 miles from the city that never sleeps. The session would take place at her home, where there was only one makeup artist, and where the model would spend the night. During the drive, “Jonathan never looked at me directly,” writes Emily. “The more disinterested he seemed, the more I wanted to prove that I was worthy of his attention. I knew that impressing these photographers was an important part of building a good reputation.
The photoshoot was taken in one of the bedrooms, with Emily in lingerie, while Jonathan photographed her with a Polaroid camera. After a few attempts, the photographer wanted to try photos with the young naked woman. “I had been photographed naked half a dozen times, always by men. Yet the second I took off my clothes, a part of me fell apart. I started to float out of myself, looking at myself as I climbed back into bed.
In the intervals of the shots, Emily reveals that she was drinking wine, donated by Jonathan (in the US the minimum legal drinking age is 21). It was a long night when the photographer allegedly sexually abused the model. Emily never told you what happened that morning in 2012 until now.
The photos from the shoot were published in the magazine and a few years later, when the actress had already “buried the images and Jonathan somewhere” deep in her memory, the photographer compiled several of the Polaroids taken that night- there and published a book, titled uniquely Emily Ratajkowski, as well as organized an exhibition in a gallery.
In the United States, in legal terms, there was little the young woman could do to prevent the book from being published. Her lawyer informed her that she might be able to get the rights to the book and some of the profits, but the images were already on the Internet and no one could remove them. In Portugal, underlines Mário Serra Pereira, this type of situation is not allowed. “Commercial use of someone’s photographs requires their express permission.”
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The book ended up being reprinted three times, with the latest edition published late last year already out of print. In 2017, on the date of the first post, the photographer gave an interview in which he spoke about this shoot and mentioned that Emily was neither shy nor worried. “To say she liked to be naked is an understatement.” Regarding the image rights dispute, Leder said Emily should support the release of the photographs.
Since permission was given by Ratajkowski to be photographed during the session in 2012, according to law, the photographer can use the photographs later. However, “although there is consent, and now I speak in Portuguese law, the person photographed can say that they do not authorize the use of the photographs after a certain time”, explains the Portuguese trainer. “The fact that there was sexual abuse does not invalidate the fact that he previously gave his consent and that he used the photos for the magazine and then for a book. These are different issues. Yes, a moral problem can arise. “
Emily Ratajkowski ends the essay by admitting that she once thought about selling Richard Prince’s painting and using the money to sue Joanthan Leder. However, she doesn’t want to spend any more money on him and believes that eventually the “never before exhibited” photographs will run out, while she will remain the real Emily.