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NYC: Lhota use of photos irks their shooters

Joe Lhota's ad on YouTube.

Joe Lhota's ad on YouTube. Photo Credit: YouTube

We tracked down two of the photographers whose pictures of a far grittier New York are featured in Republican Joe Lhota's TV ad suggesting that crime would spike if his Democratic rival Bill de Blasio were elected mayor.

The lensmen are not happy.

Both of them -- Q. Sakamaki, who photographed rioters at Tompkins Square Park nearly a quarter-century ago, and Richard Sandler, who snapped the picture of a woman clutching a pole aboard a graffiti-covered subway train in 1985 -- first learned about their pictures' starring roles from a call from Newsday.

"I have not given him permission," Sandler said late Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not in favor of Lhota in the first place, and I don't want that picture used."

Anyway, he added, he's leaning toward supporting de Blasio.

Sakamaki was shocked to learn his photo, the first of nine, was being used in the spot, airing on broadcast TV.

"I'm very upset that somebody would use it for a political campaign," he said.

He said he's a nonpartisan photographer -- and doesn't want to be viewed as favoring one party.

"This is very bad," said Sakamaki, who has a green card and can't vote and isn't supporting either Lhota or de Blasio.

Lhota spokeswoman Jessica Proud said Wednesday night that the Lhota campaign and its ad agency, Wilson Grand Communications, found the images on the flickr photosharing site that tagged the images as royalty free. Proud said they unsuccessfully tried to reach the photographers behind every one of the nine images in the ad.

"We did our best to find everyone we could," she said.

Lhota released the ad Wednesday morning.

De Blasio has dismissed the ad -- titled "Can't Go Back" -- as "desperate," "divisive" and "inappropriate."

The 30-second spot cycles through decades-old photos of a city beset by graffiti-covered subway trains, dead bodies and marauding street toughs.

Proud said the campaign would compensate the photographers or take down the images if that's what the lensmen ask.

Sandler said he's considering legal action against the Lhota campaign, but added: "Either that or pay me handsomely for it."


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