OREGON – A cover photo in a local magazine has caused a stir in Oregon.
In the picture, Debbie Dickson, the part-time executive secretary for the Oregon Chamber of Commerce, is sitting on a commemorative rock in front of the Ogle County Courthouse.
Dickson is leaning back slightly with one hand placed on the rock behind her. With her legs crossed, she is wearing a pink skirt that reaches halfway down her thigh when sitting.
The photo appeared in the Oregon Living Magazine, which Sauk Valley Media distributes twice a year in Ogle County.
In the fall-winter edition, which came out last month, the magazine profiled Dickson, who took her position with the chamber last July.
In late September, former Ogle County Board member Lynne Kilker wrote a letter to the editor of Ogle County Newspapers, which operates under Sauk Valley Media’s umbrella.
“I looked inside the magazine to see the article,” Kilker wrote. “The following are the closing words: ‘I’m always saying to people: Look at this! Did you know that our community has this and it’s awesome!’
“Is that comment referencing our courthouse or is it referencing the ‘cheerleader’ in the provocative pose?” Kilker said.
She also wrote that the “pin-up” photo might have been better if it had been taken elsewhere in the community, rather than doing a “cheap shot” at the courthouse, which represents all Ogle County citizens.
Kilker, 76, a former chamber director, has taken her complaint to chamber board members and raised the issue at an Oregon City Council meeting, asking who is responsible for it.
“She is sitting there in a provocative, pin-up-style pose, with way too much leg showing, not only on the cover, but inside the magazine,” Kilker said in an interview Tuesday. “It irritates me.”
A current County Board member, Marcia Heuer, 66, who is a friend of Kilker, suggested at a board committee meeting last week that the county get a copyright for all county buildings, requiring permission to publish photos in the future. She was responding to the Living photo.
In an interview Tuesday, Heuer, a former chamber director, said the photo doesn’t offend her personally, but that many people have told her the photo of Dickson wasn’t “appropriate in its juxtaposition with the courthouse.”
According to the American Society of Media Photographers, buildings constructed before Dec. 1, 1990, have no copyright protection. Younger buildings have a photographer’s exception.
The courthouse was built in 1891.
Since Kilker’s letter appeared, others have written letters to the editor in opposition.
“How degrading and demeaning to refer to our Chamber of Commerce [secretary’s] photos as ‘provocative’ and as a ‘pin-up’ when it is absolutely no such thing,” Beth Henderson of White Pines Inn and Eagle’s Nest. “I am furious that Ms. Kilker can be so vicious and cruel.”
Oregon resident Richard Gribbins wrote that he didn’t find the photo provocative.
“The cover did get me to inquire about membership in the Oregon Chamber of Commerce, so in that sense a positive result was achieved,” he said.
In an interview Tuesday, Dickson said she was embarrassed and blindsided by the controversy. She said she agreed to an interview because the story was positive publicity for Oregon.
“I am not the kind of person who likes to have her picture taken,” said Dickson, who works three jobs. “I kind of prefer to fly under the radar. But with friendly persistence from your folks’ end, I agreed.”
Dickson, 55, who runs the chamber’s day-to-day operations, said she followed the lead of a photographer from Sauk Valley Media.
“The photographer had some ideas for photos. I did what he told me to do,” she said.
She said Kilker has not contacted her about the issue.
“It is very embarrassing to me,” she said. “It makes me literally, physically ill. I’m shaking as I talk with you.”
But she said many have expressed support.
“I have had dozens of people approach me at all of my jobs. They say how ridiculous this is. I have had calls of support, flowers sent to me,” said Dickson, who has lived in town for more than 30 years. “It’s unfortunate that Ms. Kilker has the viewpoint that she does. It feels like a personal attack.”