Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Real Problem With AIG

Everyone's already aware of the problems at AIG, American International Group, the world's largest insurance company. Everyone knows that their Financial Products company's credit default swaps have nearly brought the world economy to ruin. We all know about the ridiculous practice of paying bonuses to their employees even though the company is technically bankrupt. We all know that even though the US Government (that's you and me, folks) now owns an 80% stake in AIG they continue to operate several subsidiaries out of Bermuda to avoid paying U S taxes. The absurdity of AIG is well documented. Now for something you don't know.....

I have a colleague in New York City, an industrial photographer, Steve Mallon, who is also President of ASMP's New York Chapter. Just as the economy was grinding to a halt, 155 Americans faced yet another difficulty: the airplane in which they were riding was about to crash-land in the Hudson River. Have you heard about this one? I think you have.

What's the crash of US Airways flight 1549 got to do with Steve Mallon? What's the crash of US Airways flight 1549 got to do with AIG? What connects the dots? I'm glad you asked.

In the aftermath of the US Airways crash, Steve Mallon was hired by Weeks Marine, the crane company hired to lift the Airbus from the Hudson River, to photograph the recovery of the jet. Pretty cool assignment, eh? Don't you wish you'd been offered that job? When I first heard about it, I wished I'd been offered that shoot. Steve was pleased to get that job. Too bad nobody will ever see the bulk of his pictures.

Even though he had unlimited access... from land, from the river, inside the aircraft's cabin, anywhere, everywhere he wanted to go; Steve had the full cooperation of his client, the NYPD, the Coast Guard, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and US Airways.

The absurdities began about a week after the images went up on Steve's web site. He got a note from the NTSB asking him to remove them. He complied. Two weeks later the NTSB reversed course and allowed him to use the pictures on his web site again. He posted them again.

AIG, insuring US Airways, in a letter from their attorneys is claiming that Steve has no rights to his pictures, and that the pictures absolutely cannot be released to anyone, ever, not even news organizations for news purposes. AIG, through its attorneys, seeks total suppression of Stephen Mallon's photographs, indefinitely.

Why is AIG trying to keep a lid on Steve's pictures of the airplane's salvage? Everyone knows about the crash... it's been reported all over the world. I've seen it on televison no less than 100 times myself. What's the problem?

Well, there's a lawsuit brewing and Steve's images, if widely circulated, will damage one side or the other. But the public is losing its ability to witness something remarkable and to a layman it doesn't make much sense. The US Airways crash was an example of a flight crew doing everything right. Not one life was lost, the pilot and crew performed brilliantly... they're national heroes! It's difficult to envision a better outcome given the situation and if you had to be on an airplane going down, wouldn't you want it to be a US Airways flight piloted by Chesley Sullenberger? I sure would!

I've followed this story from day one. It was a flock of geese that caused the crash. No report of mechanical failure, the crew are heroes, no passengers were seriously injured. So why the cover up?

Stephen Mallon is sitting on 5000 great images. This wasn't a Work made for Hire and his client gave him a green light to publish the images in non-commercial venues (his website, for instance). In fact, according to the few who've seen all of them, the best of the take represent a fabulous documentary of the airplane's salvage. The pictures you see here have already been published elsewhere. Take a good look at them now because it's very likely that you'll see no more. Why? AIG is covering its ass.


Blogger rjgreenphoto said...

I forwarded this to my brother in Texas who is a pilot (leisure, small plane). He liked the article but, on another point, really got a kick out of your personal statement (by your photo) - "I'm smarter than I look." He wants to start using it.

Rich Green

3:59 PM  
Blogger Joe P. said...

Hey... that's *my* line!!

5:15 PM  

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