Yan Morvan is a storied photographer with tales from the darkest corners of French society. Having photographed French gang life for nearly forty years, Morvan’s lens has seen things most wouldn’t be able to even under the most exceptional circumstances. An interesting piece of French law, however, has brought “Gangs Story”, Morvan’s latest book, under fire. Petit Mathieu, one of the gang members featured in Gangs Story, sued Morvan over his portrait and won the case. The right to control your own image trumped Morvan’s work as a photographer.
Gangs Story, a 2013 rerelease of the 2000 edition, came after Morvan partnered with Kizo, a former gang member, on a documentary about France’s suburbs. The rerelease includes new photographs shot between 2009 and 2012. Mathieu’s portrait was also included, but this proved troublesome because Mathieu, whose full name was never mentioned in the book, claimed that the image, despite being 20-years-old, was not representative of his current beliefs.
The court ruled in Mathieu’s favor, and fined Morvan €5000 (roughly $6,632). The fine also came with a ban on the book, which is available until the end of July. Unfortunately, as Morvan notes, this decision opens a realm of dangerous possibilities in that any of the 250 people featured in the book could sue him, and given his lack of funds, he cannot appeal, nor can he sustain anymore lawsuits.
This is tragically unfortunate because Morvan’s book provides deep insight into a lifestyle most are unfamiliar with, and now his ability to inform has been hampered by Mathieu’s desire to conceal his own history.
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