Boots refuses to print photography student’s snaps… because they are too good
When Joanna Ornowska took a series of elegant pictures of a pregnant friend, she proudly gave the digital snaps to Boots to be printed.But the store refused to process the 30 photographs – because they were too good. Workers said the portraits looked to be the work of an expert and did not believe the 25-year-old student took them. Her model, eight months pregnant Malgorzata Kulinsha, 26, took the snaps on a memory stick to a Boots store in the Lower Precinct Shopping Centre, in Coventry, West Midlands, last week.
One of the portraits of eight months pregnant Malgorzata Kulinsha taken by her friend Joanna Ornowska
She was challenged by staff who accused her of breaking copyright laws, which make it illegal to print professional photographs without their owner’s permission. Miss Kulinsha returned the following day with her friend’s student ID and a signed letter proving she was studying for a degree in photography at Coventry University.
But the Boots staff demanded a further letter written on headed paper. Even when both women went to the store to prove that the photographer and model were happy to have the snaps printed, staff refused to back down and the pair were sent away empty-handed.
Miss Ornowska, who was born in Poland but moved to the UK three years ago, said: ‘Boots said the photos looked so professional that they didn’t believe I had taken them. It was crazy. ‘They were demanding a letter on headed paper to prove I was the photographer, but I explained to them that I was a student and did not have my own photography business. ‘They showed me a book of rules and regulations which said customers needed the photographer’s permission to print pictures, but nowhere did it say anything about needing such a letter.
Ms Kulinsha planned to take the pictures back to show her family in Poland. ‘The photos were special to me. I don’t go home very often and I wanted something to bring back to my family’
Boots has since aplogised for its over-cautious approach. Staff believed the images were professional shots downloaded from the internet
‘I could have developed the pictures myself in the darkroom. But I needed them done quickly and I couldn’t see what right it was of theirs to say I couldn’t have copies of my own work. Should I start taking bad photos to get them printed?’
Miss Kulinsha asked her to take the portraits to show her family at home in Poland, where they do not have access to e-mail. Her friend used a Canon digital camera to take a series of photos of the blonde cradling her bump against a dark backdrop in a studio at the university.But because of the delay caused by Boots, Miss Kulinsha caught a plane home without the snaps.
She said: ‘I spent ages putting on my make-up and getting dressed up to have the pictures taken. But even with the model and the photographer stood in front of them, Boots still wouldn’t print the photos for us.’The photos were special to me. I don’t go home very often and I wanted something to bring back to my family, but instead I felt I was being accused of stealing someone’s work.’
Miss Ornowska’s university tutor Jonathan Worth condemned the store’s reaction.
Photography student Joanna Ornowska outside Boots in Coventry’s Lower Precinct shopping centre
He said: ‘Joanna has only been taking pictures for a year but she is an incredible talent. The shop has asked for proof she took them, which there is obviously no possible way of doing. It’s ridiculous.’I suppose it’s a bit of a back-handed compliment to her, but it was very inconvenient.’
Austin Mitchell, Labour MP for Grimsby and a campaigner for photographers’ rights, added: ‘Boots are clearly barmy. It’s not their responsibility to enforce copyright law and they are just being over-punctilious.’Boots last night apologised for its ‘over-cautious’ staff. A spokesman said: ‘We have a legal obligation to ensure that we do not infringe any copyright laws including those of professional photographers.
‘In the case of Joanna our store staff were over-cautious and on reflection should have sold the pictures. We have refreshed all procedures in this particular store and the staff have been fully briefed regarding appropriate customer care.’