Monday, February 20, 2012

"In Reflection: A Frog and his Man"

One of the most famous photos of Kermit the Frog and Jim Henson has been running all over the internet for several years, being used in official capacities such as interviews with Kermit the Frog, being used in fan-made memorials to Jim Henson, and even being used to make crude jokes. We've even had a guy search for this photo for three months before he located me about it. But, where did this image come from?  Where did it begin?  Is it official?  Is it something the Jim Henson Company made, or even Disney's Muppets after their purchase? 

Nope.  It's not an official company image, and it wasn't staged by the Henson Company, Sesame Workshop, or Disney; but, it was made by fans who wanted viewers to feel a bittersweet emotion.

More recently than not, folks who know us recognize when this photograph pops up on the internet.  The "us" I mention is Lin Workman and myself.  We took this 'famous' photo on September 1, 2007, at the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Museum in Leland, MS.  Which picture, you ask?  This one here:

Photo taken by Kevin Williams and Lin Workman.
See, in 2007, Master Replicas was sending their Kermit the Frog Photo Prop Collectible around the country on a promotional tour.  It was a pretty popular program hitting probably 10 - 15 cities.  The process was that you had to apply and tell why Kermit would want to visit your city, and they would ship the Kermit to you in a suitcase in which you would put a few collectibles from your town and then you would send him on to the next town.  Each town would be given a gallery on their website with a poll running for the "popular vote" in their forums.

Photo taken by Lin Workman and Kevin L. Williams.
In order to win the opportunity to have Kermit come to Memphis, TN, I listed, "...and we can take him home again, to Deer Creek where Jim Henson used to play in Leland, MS, and to visit the Jim Henson Museum there."  Not long after my e-mail was sent I was told we'd be playing!

Lin Workman and I took MR Kermit all over Memphis (the Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Beale Street, to meet Blues singer Di Anne Price, out to eat BBQ).

(We lost the beautiful Di Anne Price in March 2013, click the
photo above to read our tribute to her on that day of transition.)

At Central BBQ in Memphis, TN, playing off a
fun song from "The Muppet Show."

On September 1, 2007, we went down to Leland, MS, and to the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Museum with Martheus and Janet Wade who assisted in a lot of the photographs there.  As we walked by the photograph of Jim Henson on the wall, I asked Lin if we could take a photo of the Kermit prop replica in front of it, he says 'Sure,' and I dropped down to the floor, posed Kermit, and held him up while Lin took the photo.  (There's another that has never been published of Kermit hugging the photo as best he can, published here for the first time.)

After the Leland trip, we submitted the photos to Master Replicas which went up on their website (I guess it's been removed from the internet since then).  This photo was an immediate hit with everyone who feels and understands that sentimentality we hardcore fans feel when we think of Jim Henson.

Video photo-montage of the trips can be seen below, both were published to YouTube on September 10, 2007.

Now that you're at this part of the story, go back and look at the image up top again and think like a Muppets and Jim Henson fan.  Do you get it?  Do you feel what we, as fans, felt about the image?

The image was taken in a moment as we were snapping shots all over the museum, but after we took this shot we looked at it and all the emotion of how we care about the character and his creator was in it:  A reflection on good times, a reflection on good friends; inspiration and admiration, the appreciation of someone--a longing to see a loved one who has gone on before us.  Influence of creativity, happiness and a desire to make the world a better place.  The photo prop looking at a photo of Kermit emoting the same smile as his creator who stands below him, and the smiles both have given to us and the world.  This is only a little of what the photo sums up for us, but you get the meaning and the idea of it.

And since then, our photo has shown up honorably (keeping our tags in place on the image) on all sorts of tribute websites (which is fine); but, then, there are those 'people' out there who have taken our image and desecrated it which is NOT fine.  There are people out there who have 'swiped' the image and removed Lin and my tags from it and claimed it as their own, even showing up on ebay for sale by a company who claims to be honorable by offering an "official photograph" of a Kermit collectible...a photo that the guy doesn't even own rights to sell.

The MR Kermit Krew!
It is not an official photograph from Disney, The Jim Henson Company, or Sesame Workshop, and yet it has shown up in movie reviews, and even during an official interview with Kermit the Frog regarding the movie The Muppets in Australia on their version of A Current Affair.

The point of this is that those of us who were there, creators of this particular photograph, have never, ever offered this photograph up for sale.  We have never, and would never, give anyone else approval or rights to use this photograph for sale as Kermit the Frog belongs to The Walt Disney Company, and Jim Henson belongs to the world.  For someone to steal our photograph for sale cuts at the very sentiment behind why this photo was taken and what it means to us and not only desecrates our love for the character and the man who created him, but also desecrates the appreciation every fan in the world has for them.

So, above you know the story of where the photo came from, why we took it, what it means to us, what happened as a part of the contest, what all has happened since then and more.  I hope that you--whoever is reading this--will help us keep folks from further harming the intent of the image and will let us know if it ever is taken without honor again.

If there's enough interest, I'll be willing to set up a video-photo montage of the images used on Master Replicas website, too.  Post comments below, or visit us on facebook and let us know if you want to see the images.


9/4/2013: Visit Paul Williams' blog "The Elegance of Kindness" by clicking here!  He had some really nice things to say about the photo:
You and Lin captured the true feelings of millions of Muppet, Kermit and Jim Henson fans with your amazing photo.


October 2013 Update: An official copy of the Jim and Kermit photo was dedicated to the Jim Henson Delta Boyhood Museum during FrogFest.  You can see photos and learn more by clicking here.

Updated to share this photoshopped image, author unknown.

Updated to share this image by Carlotta4th.

Here's an article that gives credit where credit is due:


stardanced said...

Thank you for posting. I am a long time Muppet fan (my childhood bedroom has Kermit and Miss Piggy plastered on it while most girls my age had New Kids on the Block). I appreciate the picture and definitely feel what you felt when taking this picture. I know you said you don't sell it but I would love a copy. Is there any way to get one in a reputable manner?

Gem Bentick said...

Every single time I see this image tears well in my eyes. As a muppet fan growing up this photo means a lot to me. Thank you for taking it.

Unknown said...

This photo means a lot to me. May I know if it's for sale? If yes, where to buy it? cheers. said...

Hi, all, here are some long awaited responses: I love knowing there are such big fans out there like me who can appreciate the meaning behind the image. Unfortunately, the image is not for sale--it wasn't meant for that ever. An official copy of it resides with The Jim Henson Legacy and at the Jim Henson Boyhood Museum in Leland, MS, for viewing in person.

Stardanced: Thank you so much for sharing your story with us!

Gem Bentick: It was amazing how we just took the photos, and then when we reviewed the image we all got a huge lump in our throat and tears as well.

GforGranny: Glad you liked the image. Sorry, it isn't for sale. I should think of something to make it officially available somehow one day.

Unknown said...

Hope you can do sth for fans of this photo. I actually broke into tears the first time I saw it. Not because of kermit and Jim, but because I am a creator myself. To see your own work missing you, this means a lot. A thousand lot. I gave up lots of aspects of my life in order to archive quality of my works. In the end, if no friend or lover miss me, my works will. That's why it means a lot to me. Please re-consider the decision. All I want is this photo framed and being hang in the middle of my living room. Gforgranny

Unknown said...

My email is

Greg Dray said...

The Muppets created by Jim Henson is a cherished childhood memory that lives into adulthood. I vacationed one summer, long ago, at Cape Cod with friends who rented a cabin every summer at Corn Hill and Muppeteer Jerry Nelson was a regular. Jerry was the voice of the Count, Statler and Waldorf and many other delightful Muppet characters. I was a late arrival and the cottage was crowded so after an evening of charades and Jerry singing songs with his guitar he'd written for the Muppet Show ( like the song I'm Cool) ,Jerry insisted that I stay with him and his daughter in their beach house as he had plenty of room. This is the kind of people Hensons people were, just down to earth, fun, loving people. Jim Henson brought magic to the world.