Jason Lee Parry, the photographer behind the racy photos of a then 15-year-old model that ended up splashed across T-shirts and in fashion magazines, defended himself today against the $28 million lawsuit filed against him by the model's parents.
"I look at it and think, 'this is a really cool shot,'" Parry, 32, said today on "Good Morning America" of his photograph of model Hailey Clauson, now 16.
The photo shows Clauson, clad in leather shorts, sitting with her legs spread, perched on the back of a motorcycle. Another photo from the same shoot shows Clauson on a skateboard, dangling a six-pack of beer from her fingertips.
"Her facial expression looks tough," Parry said, defending his work. "Look at that, you can't tell me that doesn't look tough."
Clauson and her parents, however, disagree. They've filed a $28 million lawsuit against Parry, two boutique stores and the Philadelphia-based national retail chain Urban Outfitters Inc.
The suit, filed Aug. 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, contends the defendants allowed the "blatantly salacious" shot to appear on a T-shirt sold in both of the boutiques and at Urban Outfitter stores nationwide. The suit also claims the photo has damaged Clauson's reputation.
The lawsuit contends that "her crotch area [is] the focal point of the image" and notes that the shot is of interest to "the likes of pedophiles."
Parry and his production team contend that Clauson is, in fact, just as responsible for the images, and that her parents approved the shoot and gave him permission to release the photos.
"She's a professional model," said Alice Davis, a videographer who assisted Parry in the shoot. "She posed herself."
Parry told "GMA" he owned the photos and that his work was published one-and-a-half years ago with the permission of Clauson's parents, adding that Clauson's father saw at least some of the photos after the shoot.
"I flipped through the camera and I can truly say, I don't know which ones he saw, but I know he was happy," Parry said.
Clauson's father was not at the shoot when the disputed photos were taken.
Clauson, a model who has worked in Los Angeles and Paris for designers like Gucci and Oscar de la Renta, was just 15 when she posed for Parry at the March 2010 shoot.
The lawsuit claims Parry agreed not to release the photographs after Clauson's modeling agency at the time, Ford Models, complained. She is now represented by the agency Next NY.
Nonetheless, the risque photos eventually landed in the German magazine Qvest, and on T-shirts sold at boutiques Blood is the New Black in Los Angeles and Brandy & Melville in New York City.
Parry is described in the lawsuit as a professional photographer whose "unconventional body of work" features "nudity, semi-nudity, sexually suggestive situations involving only women and what appear to be underage girls, many with bloody noses as if incurred as a result of repeated drug use and/or physical violence."
He told "GMA" he can't believe the outcry over what he argues are innocent photographs.
"The real question that's here, 'Is she showing anything? Is she showing private parts?' That's the real question," he said. "Now if that was the case, I would completely understand. I never thought I'd be with you now, here, on ABC, about a girl wearing shorts and a button-up shirt."
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