Classic Album covers : Contra - Vampire Weekend

Contra is the second album by Vampire Weekend, released in January 2010 on XL Recordings

The cover of Contra features a candid polaroid of a girl from 1983. The photo was found by band member Rostam Batmanglij while searching through photo archives of that year. The striking quality of the image is what attracted Vampire Weekend to it, and which has made it a topic of such focus and discussion. Lead singer Ezra Koenig states that when he first saw the image, he felt he read “some sort of hesitation” in her face, and that the band discussed at length what her possible age or emotional state could be in the photograph, without ever becoming certain of either. Koenig believed that “wrapped up in her expression is this question: ‘How is she feeling?'” and that “maybe she wasn’t even really sure at the time”

The band, reportedly paid $5,000 to photographer Tod Brody to use the picture. Brody claimed to have taken the picture during a casting session in 1983. Brody also claimed that the model had signed a release form, permitting use of the picture, in 2009

While debate regarding unauthorized use of Facebook pictures rages on, that photograph from the pre-digital age got Vampire weekend into serious trouble. Former fashion model Ann Kirsten Kennis sued them for a cool $2 million, claiming that the photo of her was used without her consent. Kennis was reportedly very surprised to see her doe-in-headlights likeness in a preppy Polo shirt on the Contra cover, when her daughter showed her the record saying “Hi, Mom, see your picture?'”

According to Kennis it was her mother, not Brody, who’d taken the Polaroid, and not for modelling purposes. She had no idea who Brody was, or how the picture had ended up in his hands. She also denied signing any release clause

Kennis was definitely not amused and astutely pointed out that her lawsuit highlighted a generation gap and our increasingly blurred notions of copyright and permission of use. She said, “You start to see interviews from fans of the band, and they are like, ‘I would just be glad that my picture was on it.’ Well, not really. They are using it for their gain. Something is wrong here. It’s like, don’t just use my picture all over the place”

On August 15, 2011, it was announced that Kennis had dropped her lawsuit against XL Recordings and Vampire Weekend after they paid Kennis an undisclosed sum.  All litigation in the Vampire Weekend case was dismissed by Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank of the United States District Court for the Central District of California on August 12, 2011. There is no further pending litigation between any of the parties

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