As the world tries to figure out the motives of the Empire State Building shooter, one random Instagram photo provides a window into the dirty underbelly of photo licensing for wire services.
Here’s what we know: Instagram user mr_mookie posted a photo of a man bleeding from a head wound on a curb that was geo-located to the Empire State Building. The photo’s caption reads “They shoot, aw made you look! No really tho. Dude got popped!”
After a few glib comments about how he couldn’t be bothered to stop and help, the user added a slew of tags to the photo. After that, it was only minutes until comments started rolling in from other Instagram users claiming to be photo editors for major wire services or media outlets.
Sure enough, the photo was licensed to multiple outlets within two hours of being posted. Here it is on the Associated Press photo wire, accompanied by this caption:
“This photo posted to an Instagram account belonging to a person identified as mr_mookie, an eyewitness at the scene, shows a victim of a shooting being tended to by pedestrians outside the Empire State Building in New York, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The identity or condition of the victim was not immediately known. Law enforcement officials in New York City say at least four people have been shot outside the Empire State Building in violence that stemmed from a workplace dispute, and that the gunman has been killed by police. The shooting happened at about 9 a.m. Friday at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue. (AP Photo/mr_mookie via Instagram)”
A Facebook account for Muhammad Malik is linked from the mr_mookie Instagram account. Malik soon started posting about all the reporters calling him about the photo:
Then he turned to talking about getting paid for the photo and defending the glib caption.
He has a point — I’m not sure who to be more disgusted by: the media’s bottomless appetite for photos of violence or the photographer’s numb reaction. Interestingly, when the Aurora shooting happened mr_mookie had a much more somber response: