Family in No poster 'uncomfortable and unhappy' at being faces of campaign

A man depicted in a poster for the upcoming referendum has spoken about how it feels to unknowingly be the face of the No campaign.

Family in No poster 'uncomfortable and unhappy' at being faces of campaign

By Denise O'Donoghue

A man depicted in a poster for the upcoming referendum has spoken about how it feels to unknowingly be the face of the No campaign.

Tom* says the family were helping a photographer friend build his portfolio while also adding beautiful photographs to their personal family album.

"My wife and my young son and I know a few photographers," Tom told Aine Lawlor on the Marian Finucane Show.

"We were chatting to one and the offer was there that he could take some lovely, professional-standard photos of us for our family album, and he wouldn't pay us because, you know, we're not models and we wouldn't pay him for his services. It was a two-way agreement.

"As part of that he said that he would like to upload some of them to a stock database. We said 'if it will help you out then yeah, fine, that's okay with us'."

READ MORE: The people on the No posters are in favour of marriage equality

Tom acknowledges that he and his family have no claim to the photographs.

"We signed a form saying that he could use them and upload them to the website. We've never said that we own them or anything like that."

Over a year later, Tom and his wife were surprised to find their faces were being used on political posters in Ireland, but they assumed it was for a local campaign.

"I didn't really know what it was about, to be honest, because I don't really follow Irish politics or current affairs.

"I didn't know what it was about. Vote no - vote no to what?

"It was obviously something to do with families but to be honest with you we're quite busy and we didn't think too much about it. I didn't really follow it up. I just thought okay, it's being used by someone, that's that."

They soon realised, however, that they were the faces of a campaign of significance.

"Last weekend another friend sent me a thing saying 'have you seen this?'. It was another copy of the poster. We thought okay, this is a bit odd because it's obviously being used a lot.

"This isn't a local campaign. This is obviously bigger than we thought."

They received more attention after a photo of the poster was shared on social media by comedian Jason Manford.

"I believe he was on a tour and was in Ireland and he saw the pictures, took a photograph and tweeted it along with some relatively strong thoughts on the subject," says Tom.

"Then everyone started commenting, and that's when a lot of our friends who are following him said 'Oh my goodness have you seen, have you seen?'

"And that's when it became more relevant in the UK, and a lot of our friends were telling us about it."

Tom and his family are not comfortable being associated with the No campaign, but they accept that they have no rights over the photo.

"We felt very uneasy about this because we didn't want to be associated with a campaign that we didn't support at all. At the same time we acknowledged that we have no rights on the photo because we didn't have ownership of the photo.

"The No campaign have every right to design their posters, to take a stock image (I assume they paid for it, they looked into the legality of it, they put a disclaimer on it).

"We're not questioning their right to use the photo. We're saying for a campaign that is quite emotive it might have made more sense if they had checked or used a picture of a family that maybe one of their friends or someone that they knew supported it.

"But that's not the way the business works. They went ahead and used it, which is their right to do.

"We felt very uncomfortable and unhappy about people thinking, we were now starting to be recognised by friends, thinking 'Are we involved with the campaign?'.

"We didn't reply to an advert saying mother and father and baby needed for photos for campaign."

Tom and his wife are expecting a second baby at the end of June. Aine Lawlor joked: "Keep your pictures in an album next time, maybe."

Mothers and Father Matter, who designed and distributed the posters, issued a statement on the family's views.

"Like many campaigns, Mothers And Fathers Matter has used a stock photo to give a human face to our message, in this case that children deserve a mother and father wherever possible.

"Our posters all demonstrate the core issues in the Marriage Referendum debate, rather than the rather simplistic messaging being used by the various “Yes” posters.

"We don’t respond to third parties, suggesting that they speak for the family who received payment for this photo, but if the couple involved care to contact us directly, we will be pleased to demonstrate how use of this photo will help ensure that no child will be deliberately denied of the love of a mother or father."

*Not his real name

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