NSFW: Empire State Building owners sue photographer for $1.1 million for topless pics

empire state building
The owners of the Empire State Building are suing photographer Allen Henson for taking topless photos.
Credit: Allen Henson

Photographer Allen Henson was very surprised when a reporter informed him on Monday that the owners of the Empire State Building were suing him for $1.1 million. “I said whatever, joker, so I hung up the phone and looked up a couple of things and sure enough [the reporter] sent me the documents,” Henson told Metro.

The owners of the iconic building are suing Henson after he posted a photo of a topless woman on the observation deck on Instagram. They claim Henson damaged the building’s reputation as a family-friendly tourist spot when he took the photos in August.

Henson, 29, said he has made no money off of the photos he took with his phone and they have not been published commercially in any way. “The building has been there since 1931 – it’s an icon,” he said. “A cell phone picture I took is a fly in the windshield. No one was really hurt here.” Henson said he even checked to see if there were children before model Shelby Carter bared her breasts. It is legal in New York for women to go topless.

Henson has snapped plenty of photos of topless women in public. “You can’t arrest a woman for being topless, so then there all of these nuances for a woman being topless in various situations,” Henson explained. “It looks out of place so it’s interesting all of a sudden. The aesthetic is interesting and the politics behind it are very interesting.”

Henson said he has been flooded with supportive e-mails since news broke of the lawsuit. “Nobody seems to be upset,” he said. “They all think this is completely absurd. I just got an e-mail from a 60-year-old grandmother in Texas saying she’s not the least bit offended and that it hasn’t taken away from the family-friendly environment of the building.”

Henson hasn’t received anything from the Empire State Building owner’s lawyers yet, but he said he’s working on a plan. He wrote on his Facebook page an hour ago, “I need a large platoon; about 50 topless girls to accompany me to the NY Supreme Court.” Henson said he has already received several e-mails from volunteers. “I don’t think we’ll have any shortage of participants,” he said.

Click through the NSFW gallery below to see the uncensored version of the above photo and others photos by Henson of topless women in public spaces.

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Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark


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