Empire State Building Management Files a $1.1M Lawsuit Over Topless Photo Shoot


The owners of the Empire State Building have sued a New York fashion photographer for $1.1 million after he snapped topless photos of a model on the observation platform without permission.

ESRT Empire State Building claims in its suit, filed Monday in Manhattan Supreme Court, that by having model Shelby Carter bare her breasts during the shoot on at the tower’s 86th-floor observation deck, photographer Allen Henson damaged the facility’s “reputation as a safe and secure family friendly tourist attraction.”

The company notes in the suit that throngs of visitors, including children, were present at the time of the Aug. 9, 2013 shoot, and that Henson used the facility without permission. The building owner wants $1.1 million in damages and an order barring Henson from the premises.

Henson — a combat veteran-turned-photographer who has shot for major magazines and ad campaigns — has attracted extra attention recently with what he calls his “boobs around town” project, in which he challenges social mores and New York City laws on public exposure by having models flash their breasts in restaurants and other public spots.

He told the Daily Mail that the Empire State project/stunt went smoothly and — far from traumatizing young minds — generated little attention from the throngs of tourists there. “People were looking at the view … It was a beautiful day. I don’t think anybody noticed, to be honest.”

Henson seems to be taking the lawsuit in stride, posting on his Facebook page: “I need a large platoon; about 50 topless girls to accompany me to the NY Supreme Court.”

(via Daily Mail)

Image credit: Photograph by Allen Henson

  • Carl Meyer

    Obviously $54 spent by the photographer and the model to reach the observation deck weren’t enough?

  • Josh Zytkiewicz

    I don’t see how this is a problem. NY courts have ruled that females are allowed to be topless anywhere men are allowed to be topless.

    Unless the Empire State Building plans to act the same way to male toplessness they have no case.

  • Mike

    So the newest fashion is skin?

  • Mike

    “Family friendly”? Boobs ARE family friendly. They tend to be the cause of families.

  • Mike2

    Given freedom from the law doesn’t mean you don’t have to care about others. Sure, you can be topless all you want but imagine how would visitor feel when all of a sudden you have your little photo shoot when kids are around. At least tell the management of his intention.

  • hablahblah

    I don’t think that seeing a bare breast will harm a child. Really. If a man’s chest can be seen, why not a womans?

  • Bryan Kolb

    That’s only true if the toplessness is for a non-commercial purpose.

  • lahaka

    Really, can we just get over the pixelations already? Nonsense.

  • Mason Pelt

    I know many women with small breast then men. Just saying why the offense because it’s a women? How does that effect a child?

  • Leao Leao

    Why blurring the breasts then? This site has condemned the photographer.

  • affr

    Infants see breasts daily… “oh the damage. I just don’t see how we can recover without 1.1 million dollars”… :)

    They’re just breasts for god sake.

  • Aaron Tsuru

    I don’t think the boobs are the issue. It’s the use of private property for commercial work without permission. The boobs just got the owners to notice.

  • Banan Tarr

    I’d prefer this site doesn’t go to NSFW status. If you want to see boobs I’m sure they’re but a google search away :)

  • Joe Pepersack

    “Commercial” doesn’t mean what you think it means (probably). The common usage of a word and the legal definition of a word are NOT the same. The legal usage is very specific.

    In the context of photography law, “commercial” means the photo is being used to sell a product or service other than the photograph itself. Selling prints of the photo in an art gallery is not “commercial” usage. Using the photo to sell make-up or jewelery, or to advertise your photography business is “commercial” usage.

    It has nothing to do with if the photographer is paying the model, or vice-versa, or if either of them is a “professional”. It has nothing to do with what the model is or isn’t wearing. It has nothing to do with the content or composition of the photograph. It has nothing to do with what kind of camera is being used. The ONLY thing that matters is the specifics of HOW the photograph is used.

  • Carrie Rice

    a Booble search ^_^

  • Technocrat

    So, by your argument there should be no problem with everyone roaming nude. Right?

  • Snarkasaurus

    This guy seems like a massive twat. Find a new shtick, attention-whore. “Shock value” is SO last season…

  • Josh Zytkiewicz

    Yes, but if it was a topless man that was noticed I doubt they would have sued at all. And they wouldn’t have used a phrase like “family friendly”.

  • James

    That’s not how they’re spinning it.

  • Josh Zytkiewicz

    The pixellation is on the images from the NY Daily News site. It appears PetaPixel used those images.

  • James

    It’s not for shock value. Read the article.

  • affr

    All animals except humans already do. Look how ‘damaged’ they are. Since when does what’s natural ‘damage’ us? .

    I personally don’t care if people were to ware nothing in public (but that doesn’t mean myself or others would choose to acutally do it, but sure you’d get the occasional) . We’re supposed to live in a free country right?

  • James

    Gaussian blur would have looked much better.

  • Aaron Tsuru

    Maybe, maybe not. If I assume for a second that the owners are a bit conservative (hence the boobies sparking the lawsuit), what if it WAS a more homoerotic abercrombie-esque model? That most certainly could’ve tweeked their nipples a bit as well.

    Who knows?

    They are obviously doing this to ward off other would-be scandalizers from besmirching their glorious cash cow. AND they are doing it in a very legit way.

    Whoever signed off on this photoshoot was really not smart in not getting permission.

  • Snarkasaurus

    Oh, because the article doesn’t explicitly say it’s for shock value, then it must not be? Don’t be so dense. This is clearly a publicity stunt with the driver being “shock.”

  • Kaleido Skop

    boobs are harmless

    boobs are nice

    why should they suit

    if guns kill more and dead bodies are not nice

  • Snarkasaurus

    The Empire State Building is pretty clear on the need for a permit to shoot there. All this pedantic talk of what defines “commercial” and photo law is irrelevant since it’s a private building. Photo shoot = permit required.

  • Technocrat

    So you are saying humans and animals are no different? Would you want your family members to roam around naked? Free country doesn’t mean being shameless.

  • Snarkasaurus

    I think not getting a permit was kind of the point. If they had, no one would have heard about this at all. Whole thing’s a PR stunt.

  • affr

    we’re not other than we have large brains… Darwinism is true. look it up.

    Free country done’st mean we have to be shameful though either.

  • WeeIan

    Have to say it’s an incredibly bad photo to be sued over, I mean if it was a great shot or even pretty good fair enough, but this photo is terrible.

  • Nikki Comma

    I bet you’ll get a lot of hits on this story.

  • Aaron Tsuru

    Turning out to be one expensive ass “PR stunt”.

  • Technocrat

    People who has nothing else to say throw the Darwin argument in the end. Would you want your family to roam naked?

  • James

    Don’t be so callus. Just because he does something to challenge a social norm doesn’t mean that he’s doing it for his own attention, he might actually believe in gender equality and that might be why he’s doing it. I mean that’s what he said was his reason, I would like to take that at face value.

  • affr

    I personally don’t care, like i said.. To each their own. I don’t dictate to you what you ware.

  • Joe Pepersack

    That’s exactly correct. And it’s going to come down to a hair-splitting analysis of the contract printed on the tickets.

    As I said above, “commercial” usage applied to photography has a very narrow definition as defined by NY case law, which isn’t what most people think it is. “Art” is not “commercial”.

    There’s a joke in photography circles:
    Selling 10 photos @ $10,000 each is art
    Selling 100,000 photos @ $1 each is commerce

    This actually has some basis in reality. When an artistic image is mass-produced the line between “art” and “product” is blurred. It’s a legal grey area.

  • Technocrat

    But being naked in a public settings is not an acceptable things to do. Maybe New York allows that, but that doesn’t mean you should just do it without caring for others around you. Just because you can go naked doesn’t mean you should go naked without any regards to people around you. Live free but live responsibly.

  • affr

    I get the sense you live a rough life then.. bothered by everyone all the time.. Oh so worried and bothered. This article talks about breasts.. common…

  • Technocrat

    What does that even mean? Having shame is sign of living int he rough? Having shame is a sign of not being free? Having shame is a sign that I don’t care for others?

  • Aaron Tsuru

    I guess since it’s private property, like you said, in the end it will simply come down to “a hair-splitting analysis of the contract printed on the tickets.”



  • affr

    You can’t worry about what everyone else might or might not be bothered by… that’s subjective anyway. like i said.. they’re just breasts..

  • Technocrat

    I bow down to your absurdity.

  • affr

    that’s your choice.. but i mean look at the 1800’s.. they felt that women showing ankles were shameful .. or do you feel that way too?

  • Ohio-Tog.

    Law doesnt matter on private property though, in this type of case. They are allowed to say no free boobs allowed.

  • Jiří Růžek

    crazy … and it is possible only in the US

  • Technocrat

    So you mean after few hundred years it will be OK for everyone to roam naked. Right? I think there should be some difference between humans and animals. If you don’t, well I am sorry for you.

  • affr

    Adam and Eve… even if you think “humans” are so special compared to all other life forms… even humans started naked.

    What are you so ashamed of? Or are you just nasty to look at?

  • ISO640

    What I don’t understand is what is so darn offensive about breasts? From what I hear, men love them. Women use them to feed their young… so what is the world is so shocking about boobs? Seriously?

  • Technocrat

    Oh now you throw the Adam and Eve. Where is your darwinism now? *SLOW CLAP*