Girl born without a face finds 'sister' across the world
Woman finds her face around the world after posing for free photoshoot
Shubnum Khan says she has found more than 50 cases of her image being used. Twitter/Shubnum Khan
- Shubnum Khan took part in a free photo shoot when she was at university, thinking she would just get some portraits.
- Two years later, her friend sent her a photo of an ad promoting immigration in a Canadian newspaper and said: "This looks like you."
- Khan realized that her face had been used for everything from a McDonald's ad in China to an ad for hyperpigmentation treatment.
- They also included fabricated testimonials claiming she had used a product.The use was perfectly legal, but also a big surprise.
- Without realising, Khan had given away control of the image, including allowing"distortion of character."
- Khan shared her experience on Twitter, where she warned people to read the fine print of contracts and to be skeptical about testimonials they see online.
When Shubnum Khan posed for a free photo shoot in 2010, she expected to come away with professional portraits — not to see her face all over the world.
But two years later her friend sent her a photograph of an advertisement in a Canadian newspaper, promoting immigration by using what appeared Khan's face. "This looks like you," her friend wrote on Facebook, and other friends agreed.
It was her. So Khan, a South African author and artist, decided to search for other times her image had been used.
She now claims she has seen her image used over 50 times, in wildly differing context, some of which she feels are deeply misleading.
Her face has appeared as a person looking for love on a French dating website, as a tour leader in Cambodia and as a teacher in California.
Khan recently described the experience on Twitter, where she said says she was confused when she saw the first ad.
"I didn't mind that I was promoting immigration in Canada but I couldn't understand why my face was in a paper all the way on that side of the world," she wrote.
She worked it out when a friend reminded her that she had done a free photoshoot in university with a photographer who promised professional portraits in exchange for nothing more than taking part.
Khan said that she signed a release form, expecting that the image would be used in the photographer's portfolio. "We didn't read the small print. I know. It was stupid."
The photographer later told her that she has signed away the images, and he now sold them as stock images.
It was "funny at first," she said, but she soon realized that others were profiting off her image, and even using them to mislead others online.
"It feels like I sell everything! If I'm not welcoming immigrants to Canada, I'm selling carpets in NYC, leading treks in Cambodia, or looking for love in France," Khan wrote on Twitter.
Some ads seemed innocent, she said, like an ad for dental sedation in Virginia. But she soon found examples that photoshopped her skin, like this ad for post-pregnancy melasma:
She has been on book and magazine covers and has portrayed a variety of different ethnicities.
But she identified a more sinister element in some of her new "identities," including how her face was used to portray a tutor in California. "So who is actually with the kids?" she wrote.
She said that the photographer later told her that she signed away her rights to "distortion of character including false names."
"So besides the fact that all of us were never paid for ANY of these advertisements, there's also the misleading and downright dishonesty of promoting these products," Khan wrote.
The photographer said that everything was legal, and agreed to take the photo off his website — but that the image could still be used by anyone who had bought it.
Khan says that she can laugh about the experience, but it has revealed to her how people can be manipulated.
It is a "great party story," she wrote, "but now that I'm older and more assertive & aware of power plays and manipulation I can easily see how we were all used - a whole gallery of free photographs for this photographer to sell and we haven't made a cent for all the things WE'VE advertised."
She also took the opportunity to warn people about testimonials that they see online.
"It's also pretty telling of how easily you can be exploited in this new age & how startlingly deceptive everything is. Those testimonials are fake, those adverts are fake.
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