ALBANY — The Republican campaign ad depicting MS-13 gang members under the headline “Meet your new neighbors!” that was mailed days before last week’s election for Nassau County executive has enraged a photographer who says his images from El Salvador two years ago were misused without his permission in what he called a racist effort.
“I was offended,” said London-based photographer Adam Hinton in an interview Wednesday. “I never gave permission. . . . The flyer is disgusting, racist and goes totally against anything I believe in.”
The mailed ad paid for by the state Republican Committee depicted Republican candidate Jack Martins as the candidate who would crack down on gangs, while Democrat Lauran Curran wanted to “make Nassau County a sanctuary county for illegal immigrants and protect those convicted of violent crimes from deportation.”
Curran, who said she doesn’t want Nassau to be a sanctuary county, won the election.
Hinton said the image of three scowling and shirtless men covered in tattoos is from a 2015 photo shoot about a gang warfare truce in El Salvador. He said he used the photos to illustrate the socioeconomic factors that drove young men into gangs, and sought to expose ways to end that cycle of violence.
“The image was found in the public domain without attribution, but we would be happy to speak with the photographer to offer compensation commensurate with standard practices,” said Jessica Proud, spokeswoman for the state Republican Committee, on Wednesday.
Before Election Day, she had defended use of the image in the campaign mailer by saying that MS-13 has been terrorizing Long Island and that the image wasn’t racist because MS-13 members are predominantly from El Salvador.
The website that Proud said carried the image ran the photo in April. The site is for a company called TOT Private Consulting, based in Manhattan, which says it specializes in “a variety of services for the Orthodox Jewish community worldwide.” A company spokesman said he would look into whether the rights were secured to use the image.
Hinton said he saw his photo on Twitter and messaged the Martins campaign. Now, Hinton said he is working with associates in the United States to see if he can take any action over the unauthorized use of his work.
The photo drew the attention of a Nassau County group called Shamor, which is Hebrew for “to watch over” and which monitors and responds to anti-Semitism and other biases on the North Shore.
“The photo was not taken on Long Island or even the U.S., and its sole purpose was to stoke fear based on stereotypes of Hispanics,” said Matt Harris of the group.
There was no immediate comment from Martins’ campaign.