Avoid using the desktop. Items there take up extra resources.
Can you use another account on your computer, especially another administrator account? Each account has its own desktop and you can move items out of the one for your problem account just as if it was a normal folder. You might, however, encounter problem of privileges and that's where having admin. access is important.
If you are familiar with Unix command line use you can start the computer in single user mode and use the mv command to put them somewhere else.
Mac OS X: How to start up in single-user or verbose mode - http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1492
Topic: How to move files using Single User Mode - http://discussions.apple.com/message.jspa?messageID=11188922
You can even do this in the problem account through Terminal if the account is still usable. Start terminal, type mv and a space, then drag a file you want to move to terminal, a space, and then the folder to which you wish to move it. Enter return. I'm doing this from memory and I think I have it right, maybe you don't need to add a space between the two drags.
I usually avoid the desktop, but I just wasn't thinking this time. I was on the phone with Apple, but had to go to a meeting so I was unable to get back to them before they closed for the holiday. They mentioned I might be able to acccess it through another user, and I have several of them. One is a test, the other I don't think has the privileges because when I opened it, I don't "see" my main profile in the HD. I'll check out the discussions and try and access the other users and see what happens.
Unfortunately I'm not familiar with Unix or Terminal.
Log in as a different user and open the home folder of the problem account.
Select the Desktop folder and open the Info window. Click the padlock icon and authenticate with the name and password of an administrative user (not necessarily the one you're logged in as.) In the Sharing & Permissions section, click the plus-sign icon and give the current user read & write access. Leave the Info window open.
Create a new folder in the problem user's Desktop folder. Move the photos into it.
Delete the access entry you added in the Info window. Log out.
Hope you both had a great Thankgiving dinner. While I was at mine, I left my computer running and when I returned, I was able to open the desktop folder and set the permissions to allow the other users access. Since the finder didn't try and reset, I went ahead and tried to move some of the photos to the trash from my main user (I opted to trash them as it was a quick command delete and I was thinking this would use less resourses than dragging them to a new folder). In the end, I was able to move all the photos to the trash and from there to a new folder without having to access the desktop from another user. I reset the permissions to allow admin. access for the other user just in case this happens again. I appreciate your advice with this and all is good now.