The Guy Who Snapped the Fireman at the Oklahoma City Bombing
What we're censoring in the above photo is a firefighter holding a bleeding infant as he carried it away from the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Despite being more disturbing than a lot of the gore photos 4chan users show to each other, the image became world famous (there it is on the cover of Newsweek, obviously). The photo was not, however, taken by a world-famous photojournalist, but rather a random gas company employee named Lester LaRue.
"The plan was to snap a picture of the guy who keeps stealing my sandwiches, but this is good too."
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots, where he just happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture the perfect, heart-rending scope of the disaster.
After being approached by Newsweek, LaRue granted permission to publish the photograph, assuming that he owned the copyright to his own image. To make the most of having captured the human cost of terrorism, LaRue also started to bang out T-shirts, bronze statues, and other merchandising deals for the image.
The 9/11 coin would put up a good fight for most tasteless collectible
based on an American tragedy, but the champ still remains.
Unfortunately, copyright law is a strange, confusing beast. The mother of the infant, Aren Almon, voiced concerns that her child's death was being commercialized. Perhaps sensing a media disaster, the company that LaRue worked for stepped in and claimed ownership of the photograph (he was on the job when he heard the blast and ran to the scene). The argument was that, because the photo was taken on company time and using the company's camera, LaRue took it in his capacity as an employee, and so the photograph belonged to his employers.
"We're also claiming the baby you made during our company retreat."
After refusing to cede copyright to the gas company, LaRue was fired and entered into a long legal battle with Oklahoma Natural Gas Co., and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the big corporation won. To their credit, the company donated all profit from the photograph to charity, while LaRue lost his job and reputation and was left with nothing but a massive legal bill.
But wait, it gets even stranger.
We mentioned that you've likely seen that famous photo before, but what you actually saw was probably not LaRue's photo. Another photographer named Charles Porter was standing just 3 feet from LaRue when they both spotted the fireman and sensed a photo opportunity. Both snapped photos at the exact same moment:
Lester LaRue/Newsweek, Charles H. Porter IV
Porter's photo on the right, black boxes added by us, obviously.
Porter's nearly indistinguishable photo went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, while LaRue only won a destroyed reputation and an unemployment check. Two people, in the same spot, taking the exact same action at the exact same moment. One is celebrated with worldwide acclaim, the other winds up ruined.
Eric Yosomono scours the Internet for crazy images for the GaijinAss webpage. You should go and like their Facebook page! Come experience Drew's wit and gastrointestinal fortitude at The Impulsive Buy.
Related Reading: For a look at iconic things that started as shallow publicity stunts, click here! You'll learn the Nazi origins of the Olympic torch relay. Follow up with some iconic movie scenes that happened by accident, like the infamous line-up scene in The Usual Suspects courtesy of Benicio Del Toro's farts. Last, learn about the iconic pop culture moments that were improvised at the last second- Mickey Mouse was meant to be "Mortimer" until Disney's wife stepped in.
And to further expand your noggin, check out Cracked's De-Textbook: The Stuff You Didn't Know About the Stuff You Thought You Knew.
It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We've also included the kinkiest sex acts ever described in the Bible.