USA TODAY added the bar to conceal nudity for publication of this photograph by Allen Henson. After serving six years in the Army, photographer Allen Henson says he's not afraid of the $1.1 million lawsuit filed against him by the owners of the Empire State Building for taking pictures of a topless model on the building's popular observation deck. / Allen Henson
After serving six years in the Army, photographer Allen Henson says he's not afraid of a $1.1 million lawsuit filed against him by the owners of the Empire State Building for taking pictures of a topless model on the building's popular observation deck.
"You can sue me all you want, just no RPGs, please," Henson told USA TODAY. RPGs are rocket-propelled grenades.
The owners claim Henson damaged the building's reputation as a safe, family-friendly attraction when he took photos of the model in August. They say Henson never asked for permission - and that he would never have gotten it.
"I think they are being bullies," Henson said. "They aren't in touch with what is going on. But they are involved with so much litigation, to them this is just another lawsuit. I don't think they take it very seriously, either."
Henson, 29, said he was miffed at the owners' claims that he took the photos for what they called his "self-styled 'boobs around town project' " while the deck was packed with visitors, including kids. Henson said he took the photos with his phone when no kids were around. And he said they have no commercial value; he just posted them on social media.
Henson said he started taking photos in public places, including Central Park, last year, after hearing that going topless was legal.
"It was a social experiment," he said. "When I heard it was legal, I thought 'Really?!' On paper it sounds great, but I wanted to see how it worked out in the world."
Henson said his photography career began about three years ago when he left the military "and picked up a camera." He said his work has been published "quite a bit" and that his new career is going well.
The day he took the pictures at the Empire State Building, Henson said, the shoot drew little interest from tourists. They were more interested in the view of the city from more than 80 floors up.
"There were no repercussions that day," he said. "Nobody noticed. The guards didn't react. Nobody cared. I was up there enjoying the view. Then I enjoyed the other view."
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