Photographer sued for $1,1 million over topless shoot at Empire State Building

The Empire State Building. Photo: FLSmith

The owners of New York City's Empire State Building are suing a photographer for $US1.1 million over a set of topless photos taken from the skyscraper's observation deck. 

January 14, 2014 /Photography News/ Last August, a model climbed to the crowded observation deck and took her top off as photographer Allen Henson captured the image on his cell phone. The photo went viral on the internet and angered the owners of the Empire State Building who said the observation deck was full of tourists, including children, at the time the photo was taken.

In a $1 million lawsuit, the managers allege the pictures were produced for photographer's "own commercial purpose" and damaged the landmark's "reputation as a safe and secure family friendly tourist attraction", The New York Post reports. In the suit building representatives claim that Henson did not apply for the required permission to conduct a nude photo shoot on the observation deck. They called the shoot an objectionable and inappropriate activity that never would have been allowed. The lawsuit also seeks to ban Henson from the building.

Henson counters that the building's guards had no reaction to his "social experiment," and he wasn't holding a professional shoot. "I am a professional photographer, but that doesn't mean that every time I touch a device with a camera on it I must be conducting a photo shoot," he told Reuters. 

"It was not done to negate anybody's brand," he said, adding he snapped the pics with his cell phone. He said none of the other visitors voiced any objection to the shoot. 

"She has nice breasts but people were looking at the view. It was a beautiful day," he said. "I don't think anybody noticed, to be honest."

Henson is no stranger to controversy. He previously photographed model Cheyenne Lutek, 19, exposing her bare breasts at a Manhattan restaurants while astounded patrons looked on - before she was asked to leave.


  1. Anonymous says

    wow big deal if you on the beach at the Netherlands you seen hundreds of look a like women

    Anonymous says

    I think it gives photographers a bad name if you are going to enter a family-friendly landmark attraction on private property and just assume it's fine if you have a girl go topless without asking. Does NY have laws against public nudity?

    I would venture the problem lies more with the girl who took off her top. If it was not for any purpose other than so he could have a topless photo of this girl on his phone, then why the hell would you go through this fuss to have a crappy phone photo anyway...? It's assumed that a family can go to certain places and expect a level of decency and professionalism. This was in poor taste.

    Unknown says

    He should counter sue. Far from damaging the Empire State's reputation (to the fanciful tune of a million dollars) his viral photo has created more than a million dollars of free publicity for the tired old building. Mr Hensen, send them an invoice.

    Anonymous says

    Is it very nice, that we're alive because of boobs and yet they're repressed left and right? Should women be ashamed of their boobs? I think not.

    Anonymous says

    Why are americans so afraid of women's breasts? The deck was full of tourists "including children". Oh no! what if a child saw a breast... or two.... How ridiculous we are. BTW it is completely legal for a woman to be topless in any public area where a man can be topless in NYC. Now the ESB may have a no shoes/no shirt/no service policy, but I doubt they'd sue someone for taking a shot of a shirtless man on the observation deck.

    Anonymous says

    Were I a stockholder or had a financial interest in the building I would be irritated at spending money on such antics as suing for such a minor manner.

    Kevin Hayden says what! Really!!! Who gives a damn? A safe place? Yes the breast might squirt you with a concealed weapon of mass destruction.

    Unknown says

    Yeah, but you're NOT a stockholder, Anonymous, so it's none of your business. They have every right to sue.
    As for giving photographers a bad name, that is ludicrous. He gives himself a bad, as in "naughty," name. It's called TACT, something this very attention-needy guy doesn't grasp.

    Anonymous says

    New york has no laws against nudity when it is not done for sexual arousal, as such this was perfectly legal.

    They can go fuck themselves.

    Classic example of the Streisand effect. I am a pro photographer and until they sued I hadnt heard of this.

    Unknown says

    I'm a professional photographer who knows more about the law than you do. It's irrelevant, obviously, to those who filed the suit that it is technically legal to be nude in the city of NY. They have say over what happens on their premises. Nice language. Way to make photographers look good.

    Unknown says

    If, for instance, what he was doing was "perfectly legal," then his lawyer will move for a summary judgment and, if successful, that will be the end of it. I suspect we're already past that point. A hint to you, Anon, being "professional" means a lot more than knowing how to use a camera.

    Anonymous says

    Aaaiiiiiieeeee!!!! Children exposed to boobs. Breastfeeding should be outlawed as well. Such an un-natural vile act.

    Anonymous says

    The owners of the Empire State Building have no case. Did they post signs stating "No topless photography under penalty of $1 million dollars."? It is legal in NY. Just a publicity stunt by wealthy building owners to generate interest in their forgotten building at the expense of an innocent photographer.

    Garmee says

    Any updates on this case?

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