No Sense of Irony In Hansen “Fake” Journalism Accusation

Let’s review: On Monday Paul Hansen, a veteran photojournalist and two-time newspaper photographer of the year award winner was accused of “faking” his World Press Photo award winning image. An analysis by independent experts recruited by the World Press Photo organization has since cleared Hansen of the charge.

The accusation was leveled by a tech blogger over at ExtremeTech, citing a single source: a computer scientist, Dr. Neal Krawetz, who wrote about the photograph on the blog for his company The Hacker Factor, a computer security consultancy.  Talking about Hansen’s photo, which shows a group of mourners in Gaza City carrying children killed in an Israeli air strike, Krawetz stated that in his “opinion, [Hansen's photo] has been significantly altered.” Krawetz provided his analysis and concluded that the image was “a digital composite.”

The ExtremeTech blogger got hold of Krawetz’s post, rehashed it, and tacked on this headline: “How the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was faked with Photoshop.”

As of this morning the blog post had been shared on various social media platforms by roughly 25,000 people, and had received 271 comments. (Which, by the way, is about 24,450 more shares than a typical ExtremeTech blog post gets, so mission accomplished, right?). Sadly, many of the people sharing the accusation were members of the professional photography community.

Hansen felt compelled to issue a statement, and World Press Photo asked two independent experts to examine Hansen’s RAW file. The independent experts did so, issued their findings, and World Press was satisfied. In its statement, World Press didn’t refer to Krawetz by name, but said the digital analysis that had prompted its review of Hansen’s image was “flawed.”

Krawetz wrote another post acknowledging the WPP statement, and has agreed to disagree, standing by his belief that Hansen’s image is a “composite.”

ExtremeTech also “updated” their blog post with a link to the WPP statement and the counterargument by Krawetz, but their headline remains: “How the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was faked with Photoshop.”

Reasonable people can—and do—debate how much post-production is too much post-production in news photography. But accusing a journalist whose work depends on public trust of “faking” reportage threatens his livelihood. Hansen’s image was not faked—or staged. Those mourners did carry those dead children through that alleyway, in Gaza, in the field, where Paul Hansen has worked repeatedly in his career.

But 25,000-plus people saw a headline that accused Paul Hansen of “faking” his image. Have all of those people seen World Press Photo’s statement? Or Hansen’s? Have the members of the photo community so eager to share that headline been as eager to share the statements supporting Hansen? Have we seen an apology from the blogger or website that persists with its accusing headline?

Some fake journalism was certainly revealed this week. The irony is that it’s not where everyone thought it was.

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12 Responses to “No Sense of Irony In Hansen “Fake” Journalism Accusation”

  1. charlie saceda Says:

    The blog was quick to sensationalize the analysis of the photograph. There is no question as to the truth of the photograph but the fact remains that putting a picture whether its the same picture or not is still called a composite. World Press Photo should in its rules allow composite pictures which do not alter the truth of the entire scene. Composite is a composite.

  2. Greg Says:

    Well put, PDN. The word “fake” is thrown around way too casually. That can have serious consequences for someone who makes a living in journalism.

  3. Adrian Mueller Says:

    It says a lot about Neal Krawetz if all he sees in this image is the potential of a digital manipulation. The fact that these children are dead is real.

  4. 2013 World Press Photo – Fakten und Fiktion Says:

    [...] Update 15.5.2013 Eine interessante Bewertung der Berichterstattung von extremetech.net und TheHackerBlog bei PDNPulse: “No Sense of Irony in Hansen ‘Fake’ Journalism Accusation” [...]

  5. Web que acusó de falsear foto a Paul Hansen evita pedir disculpas | Clases de Periodismo Says:

    [...] ExtremeTech se valió de esta única fuente para desestimar la originalidad de la imagen. “¿Cómo se falsificó la World Press Photo del Año con Photoshop?” tituló en una nota dedicada a explicar lo dicho por el forense digital, según cita PDN Pulsen. [...]

  6. Hiram Miggs Says:

    Take a look at the perfect lighting of the figures in the photo. At the very least there was tremendous amount of retouching, especially of the figures in the forefront.

    Another possibility for fakery is staging or repeated “takes.” It is common for Arab propagandists to stage photos and do multiple takes for the convenience of their willing accomplices in the media. For example, the famous photo purporting to show an Arab boy killed in a crossfire between Arabs and Israelis was a completely staged production. The photographers present of course knew it was staged, as repeated takes were done for them and the video cameras. Perhaps Hansen, who image and dishonest caption amounts to anti-Semitic propaganda, was part of such fakery?

  7. Emma Says:

    Has everyone lost their minds?? Personally I don’t really like the photoshopped look and the photo loses a lot for me because of it… but are we not all looking at the same picture of dead children being carried by their mourning family? It’s real is it not? What a shame people have to bitterly nitpick over something so tragic. It only confirms my reluctant suspicions that photojournalism has become about getting a ‘good (potential award winning) picture’ rather than giving a crap about the subject in question.

  8. Robert Frith Says:

    Neal Krawetz you begun this with allegations of major league underhandedness. The pseudo science around sun angles and lighting direction is, to any photographer who shoots outdoors, utterly lame.
    His proof has been wanting and his excitement over the popularity of his site in the wake of the allegations palpable.
    The debate has now sunk to the same tired old whining about what constitutes photojournalism.
    The time has come Krawetz to admit he was wrong. The debate is no longer scientific but subjective. Any issue he has should be addressed to whoever is responsible for writing the rules of the competition, not to the photographer. Next time perhaps he will be more careful to frame the debate within the context of the rules, whether they be his rules or the WPP’s rules.

  9. F.Brauer Says:

    The issue here is not the dead chaild, but how the picture is used, in other words, who is accused of killing the child.
    Was it the air strike, the rocket fired from Gaza into Israel which exploded on launching pad, or any other ammunition mishap?
    Most probably, Hansen himself didn’t know what killed the child. He went with the story somebody else told him. It is the story behind the picture which might be a fake.

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