NYTimes Magazine Pulls Photo Essay After Questions Of Digital Alteration Are Raised

- - Ethics

The New York Times commissioned Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins to travel around the United States and take photographs of abandoned construction projects left in the wake of the housing and securities market collapse. They pulled the online piece (here) after questions were raised over on Metafilter (here). Initially everyone was happily debating the economy and then suddenly someone commented “I call bullshit on this not being photoshopped” and everyone suddenly started debating the veracity of the images.

The NY Times policy on digital alteration was recently discussed by Michele McNally in their Talk To The Newsroom column (here). Their ethical guidelines state that “Images in our pages, in the paper or on the Web, that purport to depict reality must be genuine in every way” anything that’s altered must be labeled a photo-illustration except of course “this does not apply to portraits or still-lifes.”

So, the Metafilter crowd started taking the Edgar Martins pictures and mirroring one side of them to show that he had simply done that and then added anomalies in so it’s not a perfect match (here and here). In an interview on Art Most Fierce (here) Edgar states “When I photograph I don’t do any post production to the images, either in the darkroom or digitally, because it erodes the process. So I respect the essence of these spaces.”

original-house

flipped-house

I’m going to speculate that he wasn’t liking the pictures he made on assignment and that the mirror images are not that far off from the real thing so he decided to create something a little more pleasing to his eye. Only Edgar knows the truth, but people who build houses can tell you this kind of symmetry is highly improbable.

Thanks for the tip Mason.

There Are 91 Comments On This Article.

  1. So we are going to destroy a photographer’s reputation based on web recreations of what some people think he did?

    Don’t we need to see either his raw files or his negatives before we lynch him?

    • @Ellis Vener,
      I assume the NYTimes Magazine investigated the files before they pulled the images. They wouldn’t just do that because a bunch of people at MetaFilter told them to.

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Makes sense to me Rob, but “The pictures in this feature were removed after questions were raised about whether they had been digitally altered. ” (http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/07/05/magazine/20090705-gilded-slideshow_index.html) isn’t exactly a defining statement. It reads to me like they are investigating.

        For me, The nails in the guy’s coffin would be:

        “The pictures in this feature were removed after discovering some (all?) had been digitally altered contrary to New York Times policy.”

        So that is what I am looking for.

        • @Ellis Vener,
          I agree but why pull it before the investigation is done? It really only becomes a story when they suddenly jerk the thing offline. I will be very interested to see how they resolve it because this is an issue all magazines face.

  2. And if he did alter the photos, absolutely he’s in the wrong and deserves all of the flak — he’s destroyed his credibility and made a fool of his client. I just want to see more evidence.

    The cathedral house interior shot is a weird case. To me, and I’ve shot a lot of architecture, it look way too symmetrical to be right. But if he altered so many other things, why did he not also alter the few things that raised the suspicions in the first place?

  3. Read down the metafilter commentary and there seem to be more examples from different photos of cloning within the images.

  4. sigh..this was a great series too…I’m sure people will be going through the trees and ground looking for clone stamps…
    If he hadn’t made that statement, this wouldn’t bother me.

  5. “symmetry plays a part, some geometry plays a part but. However, though the work is apparently precise, the process by which it is produced is completely imprecise. So this paradox really interests me…”

    yea it interests me too edgar…

    you can see clearly in his series that he takes out the entire sky…long exposure my ass.

    • @Eddie, exactly. Counterintuitive. A longer exposure would show MORE stars, not less.

      artist is FOS; not uncommon.

  6. I’ve shot very symmetrical architecture — the only retouching work done on this photo –http://www.ellisvener.com/#a=0&at=0&mi=2&pt=1&pi=10000&s=5&p=0 — was to “Bust dust” the scan of the film original.

  7. This must be a mirrored image unless this incomplete structure is a carnival funhouse.What appears to be an air conditioning unit on the floor, the wires to the pot lights in the space above the columns are virtually identical.
    At the top of the photo is a pair of diagonal support struts that are connected to each other instead of a vertical support. Looks like cloning not construction.
    I doubt his ‘original’ is that.
    Bummer.

  8. As someone who works in the building industry, I can guarantee his original is not original. The roof trusses do not make any engineering sense particularly right at the center where the flip would happen and the stairs walk into each other and then back down. Doesn’t make much sense to have a set of stairs to go up a few steps then back down again does it?

    Anyone with a construction background can tell you that there is something REALLY fishy going on here.

    • @Scott Stahl,

      About the staircase you are right: It looks almost like he collapsed the width of the house. Assuming the house really is that symmetrical, to me it looks like there should be a landing wheree those stairs now meet and the roof joists are really odd: they just butt into each other.

      I’m now persuaded at least some of these are faked.

      You really have to wonder what Edgar Martins was thinking when he did this or allowed someone to do it for him. If he had the least amount of introspective capacity he had to know on some level that he would be found out.

    • As one more guy in the Trades—–Another weird thing about the stairs.. the area underneath the tread – should be – a stairwell to a lower floor.

      He should have cloned out the conduit -wiring- on one side at least.. too obvious

      I know people are rich but why have two fireplace inserts withing 20 feet of each other?

  9. Paul McGrath

    So, does that mean I can claim the money I spent on his book back?

    Product Description
    With artful composition and controlled framing – but no digital manipulation – Edgar Martins creates sublimely beautiful views of often un-beautiful sites. Minimalist nighttime beaches, forests ravaged by fires, and Iceland’s stark terrain have all served as subjects for his large-scale color photographs. He also explores the unexpected impact of modernism on the landscape, including startlingly graphic airport runways and colorful highway barriers that, at first glance, read like abstract murals. Certain themes recur throughout Martins’s work. A sense of place and alienation from it.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Edgar-Martins-Topologies-John-Beardsley/dp/1597110574/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1247065399&sr=8-1

    • @Paul McGrath,

      I saw his work years ago and that claim of no manipulation…? Well, regarding those beach photos let’s just say I have never in my life seen night skies that black, even near the horizon, and I’ve been to places where there is no light pollution. I have also taken long exposure photographs on beaches at night and have never had results like that – similar, but with such contrast between a pitch black sky and bright foreground, without some post production manipulation or a big set of lights? Never. How he does it I do not know, maybe he does use a lot of lights (and possibly a big black cloth as well). In any case, I remember when I saw them that I thought they were so obviously constructed (including some selective printing/photoshop) they actually lost their interest for me. This kind of manipulation he is accused of is fine in the art world, but this was not presented as an art series, and as per the NY Times guidelines, if they had known they were manipulated (which it seems they did not) they should have been labeled as such. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the accusations. Maybe we should ask him about his ‘Topologies’ book at the same time…

  10. I was slow to condemn the work based on speculation. But, it seems to me, that the dead giveaway is the small pile of sawdust, or other debris in front of the fireplaces. It’s exactly the same on both sides. Along with the trusses that connect to nothing, there also seems to be some type of object left in the window, that’s exactly mirrored to the other.

    • Another dead giveaway are the knots in the wood. We all know that nature is imperfect. How then, are the knots perfectly symmetrical on both sides of the image?

  11. So what is the NYT Magazine’s policy on Photoshop? They didn’t seem to have a problem when Nadav Kander added those phony drop shadows to his series on Obama’s staff.

    Is Photoshop acceptable some of the time? Is it an issue of disclosure? Or is it an issue of celebrity (if you’re a big enough name you can get away with Photoshopping images in the name of “art” ).

    I think the lack of a consistent policy at the NYT is a bigger concern than the Martin images per se. If Martin Photoshopped the images and failed to tell the NYT about it — same on him. He deserves to be slapped around. Although it’s equally hard to believe none of the editors at the NYT noticed these images looked a little wonky and called Martin to double check they weren’t Photoshopped.

    The ultimate responsibility of what goes into the publication rests with the editors. You don’t have to be a Photoshop guru to realize something is up with these images.

    Whatever happened to checking facts?

    Tom

    • @Tom,
      It’s a good question and certainly now that they’ve done this it makes you wonder if the rules are applied consistently and if not then why pick on Edgar. I also wonder why there’s no mention of fashion in the policy along with portraits and still-life as an exemption.

        • OldSchool

          @Ari,

          There are exemptions in Fashion because they sell a lot of Advertising to fashion clients. And fashion client want the clothing, skin, and hair to be perfect, even in the editorial sections.

          Money talks. End of story.

          • @OldSchool, If what you’re saying about fashion is true, then it, in my opinion, is very unethical. I could understand retouching fashion images commissioned by the designer to make his/her designs look more appealing. But a magazine is, or at least should be, giving an objective look at the designs and should not be playing to the interest of the designer of making the clothing more appealing.

            I’m an old-school photojournalism purist. That means that nothing, absolutely nothing, that is meant for the purpose of reporting, should be retouched passed the basic color correction, dodging and burning. This includes portraits. Viewers should be able to trust that the images are as true as possible.

            Just my 2 cents worth.

            • OldSchool

              @Tim,

              There is “Bill Cunningham fashion”, and then there is “Raymond Meier fashion”. I’ll let you figure out which one is retouched, and which one is real world. The problem to me is, two different standards (unstated and unpublished), both operating under the logo of The New York Times. Maybe the Magazine wants to wiggle out of some of those restrictions, claiming “well, we’re really just a magazine, not really a newspaper”, and if they say that, that’s fine, then secede from the newspaper and publish independently. (But there’s way too much profit at stake for that to happen).

              I read with interest Michele McNally’s column in the Times recently. There was some mention of retouch policies, but nothing about the Magazine. Maybe Michele McNally’s power does not reach higher than Kathy Ryan’s?

              My complaint is that you can’t have it both ways — you can’t fall back on the trust of a newspaper’s history and context, but then also retouch editorial images and just say, “Hey, we’re a magazine; we can do that”. I just don’t think the Reader understands, and Trust is all a newspaper has to stand on.

      • OldSchool

        @A Photo Editor,
        I’ve asked this question, even on this blog, multiple times? How can the Magazine have one Retouch policy, yet it can run 180 degrees counter to the newspaper that houses the Magazine? Do you think a normal reader would know about the two different policies? What about Raymond Meier’s beauty images, that are obviously retouched? Doesn’t that overt retouching add to women’s sense of insecurity? Can that topic not be called into question? So yes, I would ammend “Still Life, and Portraits” to also include Fashion. And speaking of the Portrait category, would they think twice about retouching a “news portrait” differently than a “celebrity portrait”? Or what about a “woman portrait” differently from an “old man portrait”? And remember when they magazine caught hell for running that Mark Warner portrait that was shot on Color Infrared, that turned the guy’s suit into magenta? I guess if it’s “cool enough”, ie Kander or the Mark Warner portrait, then the Magazine says it’s OK? “Hip” trumps “ethics”?

        • @OldSchool, When the Mark “My Complexion is from Mars” Warner portrait ran, Cathy Ryan, picture editor of the Magazine, claimed the picture didn’t look like the proofs she saw.

          Yes, of course “hip” trumps “ethics.” Gotta have rules, right?

      • @A Photo Editor,

        Maybe there is a revenue opportunity here — an official NYT plug-in for Photoshop containing all the “approved” artistic enhancement techniques. There would be a dialog box for adding drop shadows; but if you tried to do a reflected image, your system would explode. ;^)

        Seriously, they just need to develop, and document a policy and stick to it.

        Tom

        • @Tom, a very interesting thing happened to me in PS once, when I was putting a friend’s face onto a £20 note [bill] for a card for him, here in the UK. I scanned the twenty and when I tried to open it PS stopped me and told me that it was illegal…….

          Robert P

          • @RP, PS stops scanning bills, but you can take a photo of it and flip it upside down, then import into PS, flip it back again. Works if there is slight clutter in the image.

  12. There’s no way to walk up the stairs.
    I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt though: could be he’s being honest about how he shot it, but it’s a house designed and built by M.C. Escher?

  13. The fact that he claims that they are completely unaltered when they are most certainly not is quite the farce. I don’t know if this will destroy his career, but ethically speaking I can’t think of a worse thing to do than to lie about your work in this way.

    • @Tuan, Amen. Reminds me of how my parents raised me. They always said, if you mess up, just be honest and tell me the truth. Lying to me only makes it worse.

  14. If the past is any indication, all blame will be placed on the photographer. Gerald Marzorati, editor of the Magazine, will be blameless because that sort of thing is not his job. New York Times director of photography Michele McNally, like Marzorati a masthead editor, will be blameless because her office is in a different part of the building.

  15. If you read farther down in the metafilter thread on this, a lot of Edgar’s work appears to have been manipulated in post (start reading here: http://www.metafilter.com/83061/Ruins-of-the-Second-Gilded-Age#2639648). For personal work, this would not be a big deal, had he not adamantly stated that he does not do anything in post for any of his photos (interview here: http://artmostfierce.blogspot.com/2008/04/edgar-martins-topologies-book-aperture.html)

    It seems like the hypocrisy goes beyond just this one photo-essay for Edgar.

  16. Kathleen

    It wouldn’t be so outrageous if he hadn’t claimed to have done nothing.

    What was he thinking?

    What kind of person would claim to use no Photoshop when it is easy to see that he did?

      • @RP, I agree. Looking at his website galleries there are some very nice works. But manipulation clearly runs through out his body of work. Elements cloned between different photographs into different settings. Many quite obvious. Raked gravel that is clearly the same with different backgrounds. And the absent stars…

  17. vanderleun

    “If it’s not documentary, everything is retouched in this world.”

    Sounds nice, but not true.

    • @vanderleun, Whatever, you right wing religious nut job. Please stay off our industry blogs. Working at Hustler Magazine in the 70′s doesn’t make you one of us Gerard.

  18. It’s good to see NYT police stuff. It’s too bad they didn’t catch it beforehand.

    For some reason I have better things to do than seeing if knot holes line up and stairs go down. The thought of close examination of those images makes my head hurt. I think I’d rather find Waldo.

    While I don’t think NYT will hire him again, I don’t think his career is destroyed. People will turn the page and forget. Jill Greenberg seems to be doing well. I was just flipping through something the other day and thought, that an image looked like one of hers — and sure enough… People who Edgar Martins’ style will hire him again and again.

    Have any of you critics ever thought of lifting someone (anyone) up and praising them. That would be cool.

    • @Tony Blei, “Have any of you critics ever thought of lifting someone (anyone) up and praising them. That would be cool.”

      what the hell are you talking about? sounds like you’re trying to shift blame from the irresponsible photographer, to those who are examining the possibility of whether these images are altered. If you’re not concerned if they’re altered or not, then you should be. why you ask? because, as a photographer, you should be concerned that your viewers believe that the image that you are presenting to them is a true image. if it’s not a true representation of reality, then that also should be made clear by calling it an illustration, not a photograph. this is an important issue, because if it goes unchecked, it might become more acceptable to allow altered images to be presented as reality, further eroding the public trust of so-called news organizations.

      by the way, when it is warranted, i very much so uplift great images and great photographers.

      • I wasn’t exactly speaking to you, but since you took my comment personally, I guess I should respond to you. (But then again, you are the one who counted the knot holes.)

        Sorry Tim, I apologize. I didn’t realize that you were the reincarnation of W. Eugene Smith. Sound the alarm! (oh wait! He manipulated images long before PhotoShop’s invention).

        Shifting blame? No. You probably should go figure out what “shifting blame” means. If you had read what I posted, I said: It’s good to see NYT police stuff. It’s too bad they didn’t catch it beforehand.” That means that it’s good they realized something was amiss and took care of it. It also means that it’s too bad they didn’t catch it beforehand. But then again, you wouldn’t have been able to go on your little crusade.

        For the record: If Edgar Martins Shopped the images, that was bad. Truth, Justice and the American Way have finally been restored now that Martins has been found out (thank god). Everything has been righted, the economy will now get better and we can all go back to work.

        Has anyone considered that maybe journalistic publications should hire journalists to report their stories? And while everyone’s counting knot holes, has anyone even considered that The NEW YORK Times, an American publication has hired a non-American photographer to illustrate a story — here in the United States? How many displaced photojournalists are there that are continuing to be displaced because placed places like the New York Times hires the Portuguese photographer who lives in the UK? I think that’s a bigger issue than whether the knot holes line up or not!

        Over the years I’ve learned that when you point a finger at someone, there are usually three more pointing back. The truth is: People do things in post production to make images look better. Shadows are added or removed. Blemishes are fixed and skin is smoothed. Do you light things? Get over yourself.

        Am I concerned that someone fed altered images to the NYT? Nope, not at all. I’m more concerned about how I’m going to feed my family this month. I’d rather show my portfolio to someone than count knot holes and piles of sawdust in pictures that I didn’t take.

        At the end of your response, you said that when “warranted” you “uplift great images and great photographers.” What’s your standard for determining what “great” is? Who decides? In my opinion, you are providing amazing insight into the obvious. You should go discover someone who isn’t great and lift them up. Help them. Be a mentor. By doing that you will make the world a better place. The “great images” and “great photographers” already can stand on their own and don’t need your praise.

        • @Tony Blei, WOW! you really let me have it! i won’t accuse you for trying to bait me into some type of blog argument. i wouldn’t take the bait anyway. you seemed to be attempting to defend, or at least, disregard the importance of whether this should be an issue. i simply called you on it.

          this isn’t about me. my work isn’t on trial here, so i won’t bother responding to any of your questions regarding my work or my processes. i will say, however, that your rant about me counting knotholes is inaccurate. you should know that i was trying to give this photographer the benefit of the doubt by examining the image for myself. it was upon that examination that i found inconsistencies.

          like you, i too question why the NYT would hire a UK photographer for this project. hell, i’ve shot a LOT of real estate images for the NYT and my background is in documentary photojournalism, specifically of poverty stricken areas of the Mid-South. so why not hire me or some other well qualified American photographer? but i digress.

          Being a mentor is a great idea. That’s why I’m working with a 17 year old assistant who is an aspiring photographer and film maker. does that meet your standard for uplifting someone? ok, not gonna make this personal, but like i said, you SHOULD care. because if you don’t, and we don’t, the ethical standards could be lowered and become another threat to our industry and our livelihood.

          • @Tim, What a great response.

            I’ve been a photojournalist since 1984 and I do care. Right now I think we have bigger fish to fry and each of us need to reflect on our own personal path. Those acting in a less than ethical manner will be discovered — and not by us. All we can do is ensure that we are doing what is right.

            Peace.

        • @Tony Blei, I’m not a great fan of Martins’ work but I think you’re on shaky ground suggesting the NY Times should only hire American photographers to shoot in the US. Robert Franks’s The Americans wouldn’t exist if he couldn’t have shot in the US. Maybe Alfred Hitchcock shouldn’t have been hired to work here, or Billy Wilder, Charlie Chaplin, Saul Bellow, Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Mark Rothko, Frank Capra, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Irving Berlin, Maria Callas, George Balanchine etc. You get my drift. OK, maybe they weren’t hired by the NY Times but the principal remains the same.

  19. Clearly, Matins realized the importance of promoting his work as “digitally unaltered”. Collectors, museums, gallery owners, book publishers, you name it, attached value to the work based on this claim.

    If Martins’ artist statement said that he created digitally manipulated images that kind of look real, he obviously wouldn’t have enjoyed the same level of success.

    His marketing was based on the fact that there is value in photographing reality in an honest way. I’m not talking about recording undeniable truth, that’s a different discussion. I’m just saying that photographers needs to operate as honestly and as above board as they possible can. There is lasting value in that.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re doing portraits or fashion or still life or any other type of photography btw. If you want lasting value, keep it real. Just look at how the Obama team portraits of Nadav Kander has been called into question, almost from the start, for the supposed adding of a drop-shadow in post production. I don’t even know if the accusation is true, but the mere suspicion of it has seemed to devalue the work.

    Compare it to Avedon’s Rolling Stone take if you like, and then tack another twenty years onto the equation. Or maybe better, take any modern still life photographer who depends on heavy post-production, jump twenty years into the future, and compare their work to Irving Penn’s.

    Where’s your lasting value?

    • @Kenneth Jarecke, unfortunately the edited or not edited debate is a polarized one, and I think it misses the point. It’s not about editing or where the line is drawn (a line that is much fuzzier than many are willing to admit) but the truthfulness of the artist. The issue isn’t so much that he edited his images but that he misrepresented them when he said he didn’t.

      There is a nice irony when someone who is against editing gets caught doing it.

  20. Edgar Martins series looked strange to me on first sight . I thought that was the point. Though I didn’t understand it in connection with the whole housing story.

    As Kandars photos were mentioned I have to say they always look strange and altered in one way or the other as well and I don’t get them either.

  21. The NYT needs to be upfront about their findings.

    How hard is it to demand that Martins come down to the office with a laptop and his original raw files from the camera? Is that not a reasonable request that they can make?

    • @Peter Franzen, He shoots film in a view camera..But yes perhaps they should examine it. It seems at this point he’s admitted what he’s done though to the NYT at least when the evidence was pointed out to him.

  22. Stephen Rowe

    Seems to me that “documentary” photography has been having a lot of these “Emperor’s New Clothes” moments lately. In actual fact none of the alterations gave a false representation of the story being presented.

    Why is everyone so hung up on this? It’s as if you all think an “unaltered” photograph is some “Holy Grail” of truth – which it never has been. I can lie with a camera effectively without any alterations – where I point the camera is an edit of reality. An edit! The way I put those edits together makes a “story” – not a real thing.

    We know journalists and film-makers collate information and edit together to make a story based on their reading of a situation. We then judge that story on how much we trust the source. But we never allow still photography this trust because it is somehow sacrosanct. It never was and never will be the truth! It is an edit in its primary form.

    If anything all these “reveals” about photography being “manipulated” are an angst about the facade of truthfulness being pulled from photography.

    About time I say!

    (also posted at PDN).

  23. NY Times statement just in. The comments found at StinkyJournalism.org will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

    9:44pm EST New York : Here is the statement form the New York Times–just in from Diana McNulty, Times Public Relations:

    “A picture essay in The Times Magazine on Sunday, July 5 and an expanded slide show on NYTimes.com entitled ‘Ruins of the Second Gilded Age’ showed large housing construction projects across the United States that came to a halt, often half-finished, when the housing market collapsed.

    “The introduction said… Go to full story

    http://www.stinkyjournalism.org/editordetail.php?id=389

  24. http://nbm.typepad.com/the_e_p_pub/

    Martins image The NYT has deleted from an online gallery photos it had published on Sunday in its Magazine by Edgar Martins, images of abandoned real estate projects. Charges surfaced online that the images were digitally altered. E&P learned that the Times will run an editors’ note on Thursday admitting this, and indeed the note has now appeared online, where the gallery once appeared. It reads:

    A picture essay in The Times Magazine on Sunday and an expanded slide show on NYTimes.com entitled “Ruins of the Second Gilded Age” showed large housing construction projects across the United States that came to a halt, often half-finished, when the housing market collapsed. The introduction said that the photographer, a freelancer based in Bedford, England, “creates his images with long exposures but without digital manipulation.”

    A reader, however, discovered on close examination that one of the pictures was digitally altered, apparently for aesthetic reasons. Editors later confronted the photographer and determined that most of the images did not wholly reflect the reality they purported to show. Had the editors known that the photographs had been digitally manipulated, they would not have published the picture essay, which has been removed from NYTimes.com.

    A blogger, who spotted the photos at Metafilter, claims to have tipped them off. The Times’ deleted the image and ran a brief notice: “The pictures in this feature were removed after questions were raised about whether they had been digitally altered.”

    The paper had commissioned Martins, who is from Portugal, to travel around U.S. and take pictures on this theme. He even emphasized that his photos are never altered, telling an interviewer at Art Most Fierce (here): “When I photograph I don’t do any post production to the images, either in the darkroom or digitally, because it erodes the process. So I respect the essence of these spaces.”

    The first claim at Metafilter yesterday by “Unixrat” read: “I call bullshit on this not being photoshopped.” Much detail followed.

    Minnesota Public Radio talks to guy who tipped off the Times. Our sister pub, PDN, covered it here with damning evidence from the photos.

  25. Ryder Reynolds

    This may have been mentioned, i haven’t read every comment, but the “original” does in fact look real. If you notice stairwell in the center of the picture there is a one-gang box on the left and a two gang box on the right. Same story in the closets. Also, I have built homes in the past and this kind of symmetry is possible. The roof system is a truss system that is built offsite inn a factory and walls are traditionally built off of one starting point go 16″ o.c. (on center) so the left wall and the right wall would match.
    Maybe instead we should be talking about the skill of the craftsmen who built the house?

  26. It’s clear that it’s high time to distinguish globally between photography and illustrations and thus bring back values and credibility.

  27. Truth in photography will never be a destination but having it as a goal is still very important. I think more publications are going to need to be transparent about what they allow so they can build reader trust. Someone just showed me a piece of software that can detect cloning in photographs. If they build that into a web app, look out.

  28. As more details of this episode emerge, the story seems to become more strange. It sure feels like the NYT is doing some back-tracking, and butt-covering, after questions were raised about the authenticity of Martins images. I’m not really clear why they seem to be running away from the issue of digital alterations.

    If you look at Martins Web site, he uses the same reflected image technique in a number of his projects. It’s part of his style. And it’s pretty obvious that type of symmetry rarely occurs naturally. Hence it seems clear that when the NYT hired Martins to shoot this project, they must have been aware that some of his work involves digital alteration (unless, of course, the editors at the NYT are both clueless and blind).

    Presumably Martins was hired because the NYT wanted his creative perspective on the topic. The NYT has a cadre of excellent staff photographers; any one of which could have handled this assignment. So it’s curious why the NYT would hire Martins then forbid him to exercise his creative style. It’s even more curious why Martins would accept a high-visibility assignment if he were not comfortable with the ground rules. And why would the NYT publish Martins’ images if there was any suspicion they might be alterations? Seriously, if you look at the image in question, do you really believe that it wasn’t altered? Any responsible editor would either pull the questionable shots, or hold the article until there was conclusive proof that it was not altered — i.e. “take me to this site, I want to see it myself.”

    It sure feels like the digital alteration issue wasn’t an issue until it became a topic in the blogosphere.

    As I said before, I think all this stems from the lack of a well-defined, and consistently enforced, policy by the NYT on the use of digitally-altered images. It’s a little disappointing that the NYT would throw Martins under a bus as soon as some criticism started to make the rounds on the Internet. I’m not sure what the internal political climate is like at the NYT right now, but it feels like it might not be good.

    Tom

    • @Tom, The Magazine, for the most part, doesn’t use the NYT staffers because they’re too plebian, too everyday for the Magazine. The Magazine likes its photogs to be hot names, new names, foreign names, anything but the same names you see beneath pictures shot in the Bronx or of some restaurant for a review.
      They’re hip, so there.
      It’s the same with the alteration issue. Why should they care? The Times management will just keep quiet, refuse to say how it happened and within a few days pretend it never happened at all. Ethical lapses are what happen at other newspapers, not the Times.
      It all boils down to money, the Magazine being one of the few things there that makes it. They may have withdrawn the images, but no advertiser is going to ask for their money back.

    • @Tom, it was the artist himself who made an issue of digital manipulation by denying he ever did it in his work. The blogosphere responded to the fact that it was BS, that the work was manipulated contrary to its description.

      • @rebus, I don’t know Martins and certainly wasn’t present during any discussions he had with the NYT before or after the image in question was published. So what exactly was said is still a little cloudy for me.

        But nonetheless, I think it’s the NYT’s responsibility to manage guest artists and conclusively resolve issues before stuff is published. I have a hard time believing the NYT folks were blindsided by the image in question.

        Also, where does post processing end and Photoshopping begin? Most people (maybe other than PJs) make some tweaks to their images in Photoshop. I’ll bet you could ask 100 photographers the question and get very different answers for when fixing flaws ends and image fabrication starts. I’m not defending Martins, but it’s possible in his mind he had not crossed a line, but the blogosphere and NYT might see things differently.

        Again, I think this all works back to a lack of a well-defined, consistently-applied policy at the NYT.

    • @Jain Lemos, I certainly hope he’s not going to state that it’s all been in the name of calling attention to the futility of separating what’s “real” and not real in photography- or some such lame excuse along those lines.

      I applaud what the French students did, but trying to sneak things through until caught red handed- it’s been done, like every damn day in every possible endeavor imaginable…

        • @Jain Lemos, He seems to be sending that out to a number of people (Joerg Colberg has just made a post about how Edgar has been “in touch” with him with what sounds like the exact same message, which I have seen quoted in full, exactly as you received it, by other people who received it, including I think, the NYT)

          Odd how he is somewhere with no access to the WWW, yet he manages to send that email out to everyone who replies. Absolutely ! [Unless he put that as his auto-responder?] The first lie is the hardest…..

  29. I think the problem arises when you look at the quotes he has in his books, that he never does any digital alteration and that it ” erodes the process”. It clearly is his process, why not admit that? I think why not is that the art world wouldn’t value his imagery the same way. Saying all his effects are created in camera gives them a different cachet.

    Look at the work carefully now and you will see it can be created no other way than through digital manipulation. This link has something on that
    http://www.mexicanpictures.com/headingeast/2009/07/edgar-martins.html

    Also I found one image from his Topologies book which has obviously cloned rocks in the lower left. http://themorningnews.org/archives/galleries/topologies/

    The question I find fascinating is why he had to disavow digital manipulation. He’s an art photographer and needed forgo it if he likes. Because of his misrepresentation he’s embarrassed the Times. Yes they should have looked into it carefully, but it’s amazing how your eyes can be fooled when you are told something that is one thing is another. I think it’s the re contextualization of his work as being in the Times Magazine that exposed him to an audience that was less familiar with him, the world of art photography and more familiar with PhotoShop that saw through his claim.

    • @Amber, maybe he doesn’t do the digital manipulation. Someone else does and hairs are split on truthfulness? I knew someone who had a similar philosophy to this.

  30. I agree with Tom. The complete set of Martins photos from this set (49 of ‘em) are up on his webpage and they are pretty great. They hired an art photographer and not a photo journalist. I think they NY Times should not have taken them down and just corrected the statement about whether they were altered. They are one artists impression of a real problem and a good one. What is fact and what is fiction? More of my thoughts……http://tinyurl.com/l5vvlk I am looking forward to hearing his side of the story.

  31. I think this whole episode succinctly demonstrates the DIFFERENCE between a ‘photographer’ and ‘an artist’. Photographer’s ‘vision’ is 100% dependent on their hands-free ‘equipment’ that TAKES from ‘reality’, photoshopped or not.

    A true artist’s reputation, on the other hand, using their own hand in the MAKING of a something NEW, rises or falls based on their singular hand-wrought effort. Their work is clearly evident in what their HANDS have made.

    The photographic medium with all it’s increasing peripheral ‘software’ has so radically changed over the past 10 years that the actual veracity and integrity of ANY OF IT is highly suspect now.

    How ironic that the medium once tooted as the best ‘documentary’ vehicle of ‘realism’ undercuts it’s own strength by its insatiable appetite to ‘conquer’ – and control – art.

  32. Well each half is not manipulated. I don’t know why he didn’t clone-out some of the more obvious stuff.

    I get what the fuss is all about; but by the same token is it really such a big deal. OK maybe he lied, but he probably just feels what he is doing equals his Photographic Vision. Next you won’t be able to use a coloured filter on B&W to alter the tones. I mean thats OK isn’t it?

    And for those of you who want ‘Truth in Fashion’, Fashion = Fantasy. Enough said.

  33. I viewed his series online, and my only reaction was how little they moved me.
    The photographs were nothing special. They were boring.

    I wish they had hired a young American photographer, who lived in or near one of those foreclosure doomed towns, to shoot these lost and failed homes.