Best way to buy a framed print of a professional photographer's photo?
January 30, 2021 6:37 PM   Subscribe

As a gift, I want to send someone a framed or matted print of a particular photo by a professional photographer. The photographer just died and doesn't seem to have an official web site. What's the best way to do this, making sure his estate gets the proper royalties?

Photographer Corky Lee recently died and I want to send a relatively small framed or matted copy of this famous photograph of his (the one at the top of the article captioned "Sikh American express their patriotism before the 1st anniversay of 9-11") as a gift to someone who would find it significant; probably no larger than a foot in the largest dimension. I'm in the US. I'd want the highest resolution possible. I'd want it shipped directly to the person, including a note from me.

Taking a quick look on search engines, I'm not finding an official web site or social media presence (I'm not on most social media sites, however, so I may be carrying out this search poorly.)

The priority, though, would be making sure that Lee's estate gets the royalty fees he's due. For movies, there are sites like which seem to be fronts for media industry associations to make sure consumers can find properly-licensed copies of a work; there must be something like this for photographers, right? I just haven't done this before except for stock photos where which particular image it was didn't really matter, so I don't know where to start.

A secondary priority would probably be finding a union / labor-movement-friendly shop, as this would also be important to the recipient.
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Best answer: There is no concept of mandatory licensing for photographers. There is no requirement that a photographer (or estate) sell to the general public. If there is no site selling such a print or license to make a print, and you are not able to contact the estate, there is no legal way for you to reproduce the photo until copyright expires in 75 years.

There are a number of photo agencies that acquire right to photographs (especially those used in newspapers) and then resell to people who want to license the images. In a quick search, I didn't find any photo agencies that license material from Corky Lee, which suggests he did not broadly license his images. However, perhaps you may have more luck.
posted by saeculorum at 7:08 PM on January 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There’s a FB fundraiser page—you might try contacting his estate that way or the AAJA. He didn’t work for a news agency, like AP or Reuters.
Or try Lightwork.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:06 AM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wikipedia claims he sold pictures to The Villager, you might contact them to see if there was a person or agency who handled licensing for them.
posted by wnissen at 8:21 AM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Villager isn’t likely to have resale rights to a photo that they licensed from him.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:42 AM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow - as a shot in the dark I tried sending a message to the general info email address for the news site I linked to in the OP, and I received a reply from a spokesperson for Lee's family. They said that there was no general public access to licensing his photographs at the moment, and special permission had only been given to a few specific news organizations for obituary purposes, but that I could check back in a few months to see if any further decision had been made.

Thank you very much to everyone who responded to this question!
posted by Sockpuppet Liberation Front at 7:45 PM on January 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

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