I've got no beef against America's Best Newspaper, The New York Times (which I sometimes also call "the world's best photography magazine" because its photography content is so much better than what you find in most photo mags)—but, according to Editor & Publisher, it appears that they're the latest victim of getting burned by an unscrupulous photographer.
It's curious—one of the traditional roles of the print media was to act as a gadfly to business and government and keep 'em honest, look into their claims and behavior and so forth and check to see if they were all on the up-and-up. So, now, has it fallen to blogosphere to play the very same role vis-a-vis the traditional media itself? Or am I reading way too much into this?
(I'm not being grandiose, because I don't do much original reporting here on this blog. Original opinion is the best I can claim. I mean the Blogosphere, capital B, meaning, other people who know more than I.)
At any rate, it seems the paper commissioned the distinguished Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins to travel the U.S. photographing abandoned construction projects for an article in the Magazine. Pretty obvious what they expected, since a sentence near the start of the article began, "Martins, who creates his images with long exposures but without digital manipulation, traveled...." A commenter at metafilter named unixrat (who turns out to be Adam Gurno of Rosemount, Minnesota—there's an audio interview with him on Minnesota Public Radio News) got suspicious, and compared one of the pictures with a straight left-to-right flip, proving the photo was a mirror composite with a few details changed to disguise the fact. Curiously, a lot of the discussion at metafilter addressed people who "just couldn't see" how the flip proved the image was fake. I'm betting our readers won't have that problem.
In any event, the Times agreed. The slideshow has since been replaced by a terse note that says, "The pictures in this feature were removed after questions were raised about whether they had been digitally altered."
It can happen to the best.
(Thanks to els and Andy Adams)
UPDATE: There is now a fuller explanation on the Times site, at the link called "since been replaced" above:
Note the phrase "...most of the images...."
(Thanks to our reader JR for pointing this out to me. —Ed.)
Featured Comment by John A. Stovall: "It pales when compared to this."
Featured Comment by Stan B.: I'll be the first to admit I'm not very good at spotting such things—but this was not some flash news item. These days, photographic images need to be meticulously vetted. And if the regular photo editor ain't up to task, perhaps a new position needs to be created and/or utilized—an Image Authenticity Editor, if you will.
"And if Mr. Martins is, in fact, guilty—what is the mindset of someone making a career of the very thing he so publicly goes out of his way to divorce himself from?"
Mike replies: I emailed Edgar asking if he'd like to tell his side of the story. I'll let you know if I hear back.
UPDATE 9 July: I received the same reply from Edgar that the Times published on its Lens blog. He says he's traveling and will have a statement when he gets back and can review the discussion. (I think I might extend that trip if I were him....)