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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