Family

How this Kiwi photographer explained to her parents-in-law that her photo of their bums was now on greeting cards and billboards

"So many people would be absolutely not okay with this," photographer Jessie Casson marvels at the good nature of her parents-in-law.

By Karyn Henger
You know you're winning when you get on well with your in-laws, and Auckland photographer Jessie Casson has always prided herself on sharing a great relationship with hers.
But even she wondered if she'd pushed her parents-in-law too far when a spur-of-the-moment image she'd taken of them jumping naked on a trampoline appeared first on Hallmark greeting cards then on billboards and bus backs advertising a festival.
"Yes, that's when I thought 'oh dear'," the portrait photographer, who has been married to their son Matt for 16 years, admits.
"I got this text from them with a photograph of the Hallmark card saying 'what the hell have we done?' and I thought to myself 'have I pushed the in-laws one step too far?' There was no indication on the text of what their actual emotion was in relation to it."
Jessie explains that the 'exposure' had all started out innocently enough.
In 2013 her parents-in-law, Michael and Caroline Hockey, 73 and 72 from Chiselborough in Somerset, England, had come out to New Zealand to stay with her and Matt for Christmas. The family group had rented a seaside bach, which had a trampoline in the backyard.
Caroline was dared to do something outside her comfort zone and joked that she'd jump naked on the trampoline after dinner; her husband joined her.
The shot of Caroline and Michael Hockey that made it onto Hallmark greeting cards and billboards. Image: Jessie Casson
The couple made sure they first dragged the trampoline out of the line of view of the other houses.
Unable to resist, Jessie snapped a quick photo and it turned out so well she sold it to Getty Images, an international photo agency, with her parents-in-law's written consent.
"I thought the image might go in the odd something," Jessie says, meaning a magazine or newspaper article about celebrating life, perhaps.
But four years later Caroline and Michael, who have just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, walked into their local Tesco (a supermarket chain), on the hunt for a birthday card and were confronted with their own naked bottoms.
Michael recalls, "I waited at the end of the aisle [for Caroline] and she walked towards me with an extremely bemused look."
Caroline showed him the card. "I said, 'Oh my God'. Getty had sold the image to Hallmark Cards."
Images of their bums are in bookstores all over the world, and the couple say that at one point they were buying up every copy of the card they could find, despite having never been recognised when they were out in public.
Michael says they did ask one check-out operator if she recognised them.
"She said 'no, why would I?' I then said 'have another look' [at the card].
"She said 'oh my God' and told her mate and I guess they both had a right laugh out of it."
Since then their local newspaper has picked up the story.
Jessie says, "The thing is, where they live is tiny. I mean I wouldn't even call it a village. They know people around there, at least in Auckland they're anonymous! I'm just so glad that they've rolled with it and actually found it quite hilarious. So many people would be absolutely not okay with it!"
Michael and Caroline Hockey celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year. Image: Jessie Casson
This year things got even crazier when the image was selected as the hero image to publicise the Doc Edge film festival - an international documentary film festival that's on in Auckland from May 30 and moves to Wellington on June 13. It became the subject of a debate that made headline news because the nudity in the image breached some advertising policies.
The festival wanted to place the image on billboards at Britomart, Auckland's busy central city train station, but QMS, which manages advertising space at Britomart, told it that Auckland Transport's policy barred nudity. Doc Edge eventually got around the issue by placing black banners with the word's "#life" and "unscripted" over the bottoms.
"I'd say it can't go any bigger than a billboard," Jessie laughs, hopeful there's an end in sight to her parents-in-law's exposure.
She says she'll "probably be a little bit more cautious now" about submitting naked pictures to Getty - although she also admits she's been sending her friends the Hallmark card for their birthdays.
"If I'd known where it would go I probably would have thought 'is this such a good idea?' but my in-laws have been amazing. My respect for them just goes up and up."