Does anyone still believe that the camera never lies? With Photoshop, you can now make a picture speak any thousand words you want, and it will take a cynical attitude and a skilled eye to tell whether any of them is true.
While that might be a creative opportunity for artistic photographers and designers, for news editors, it can all be a bit of a nightmare — and for readers too when the photos skip the newspapers and land straight in your mailbox.
Here are seven of the most famous photoshop fakes.
Photography: Péter Guzli
Perhaps the creepiest Photoshop fake was this shot of Hungarian tourist, Péter Guzli, apparently standing on top of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 as one of the hijacked planes approaches.
This image did the rounds after the attacks with the claim that it was found in a camera pulled out of the rubble. In fact, Guzli had taken the picture in 1997 and made the edit for friends. Other people then made further edits placing him at every disaster from the sinking of the Titanic to the destruction of the White House by aliens on Independence Day.
The Smoke of War
Photography: Reuters/Adnan Hajj
Péter Guzli’s collage didn’t fool many people, nor was it intended to. Lebanese photographer Adnan Hajj’s shot of smoke billowing above Beirut following Israeli bombing in the summer of 2006 fooled the news desk at Reuters… but no one who had heard of Photoshop.
The repeat patterns in the smoke made lots of people smell a rat and it turned out that Hajj had even copied some of the buildings. LittleGreenFootballs made a neat analysis of the work done on the image and was one of the first to sound a warning. The result was a scramble among photo agencies to clarify their photo editing policies.
Here’s the less smoky original:
Photography: Brian Walski/Los Angeles Times
Adnan Hajj was a local stringer trying to make a political point. Brian Walski was a staff reporter for the Los Angeles Times who just wanted to make a better picture — a much more likely trap for both photographers and editors. After shooting a series of shots of American troops and Iraqi civilians in 2003, Walski found that the best composition came by merging two images together. He was fired.
John Kerry And Jane Fonda
Photography: Owen Franken/ Ken Light
Usually, it’s the photographer who does the editing, either because he thinks he’ll get a better picture or because he believes it will deliver a stronger message. This fake cutting that circulated during the 2004 Presidential primaries was the work of neither of the two photographers whose images it featured. The shot of John Kerry was taken by Ken Light at the Register for Peace Rally in June 1971. Jane Fonda was photographed by Owen Franken as at a political rally in Miami Beach, Florida, in August 1972.
The collage was a dirty trick designed to derail John Kerry’s campaign.
So what’s the opposite of a dirty trick? French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave American photographers a scolding for intruding on his American vacation in the summer of 2007 but he wouldn’t have minded what the editors at Paris Match (owned by his friend, Arnaud Lagardere) did to his love handles. Rivals L’Express pointed out that the President had been given some Photoshop liposuction.
Oprah the Model
And Oprah Winfrey might not have complained about this August 1989 cover of TV Guide either. It’s Oprah’s head all right but according to CNet.com the body belongs to actress Ann-Margret. Ann-Margret’s fashion designer recognized the dress and spotted the fakery.
The Reichstag Flag
Not strictly speaking a Photoshop fake as the program wasn’t around during the Second World War, but just a reminder that playing with fake smoke and mirrors isn’t new to the modern era.
Ukrainian photographer, Yevgeny Khaldei, didn’t just stage this photo of Soviet troops raising the flag over the Reichstag in 1945 (the first flag had gone up after dusk). He also heightened the smoke and removed the two watches from the wrists of the soldier on the lower left. Good Soviet soldiers don’t loot.
Here’s the original:
Photography: Yevgeny Khaldei
Tell us what Photoshop fakes you’ve spotted. (You can even learn to make your own fake photos here.)note: Thanks to Dan Zimmerman and others for pointing out that the soldier in Brian Walski’s photo is British, not American. We’re better at identifying cameras than guns.