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Friday, 07 September 2007


I think most circumstances like this start out with one small white lie to impress a couple of family or friends, and before long it becomes too big a lie from which to back out (at least in their opinion).

I feel bad for those same family and friends who not only lost a friend, but now feel betrayed by that same person. Double whammy.


From 1965-1989 I worked as a motion-picture cameraman in Washington, D.C., for network news departments and a good deal for USIA and was active in the White House News Photographers Association, I had never heard of Mr. O'Donnell until I read the obit in the Boston Globe.
We know that these copied copyrighted images were represented by the dealer, Arts Company, did they sell any in the past? If they did are the legal copyright owners going to to made whole?
I feel sorry for for the family of Mr. O'Donnell, but I feel that the wrong done to the photographers who produced this work and have been so far cheated of royalties is being overlooked.


I am an ex-UPI Downholder. Jacques Lowe was not JFK's White House photographer. He was the personal photographer to the Kennedy Family. If he had been WH, and on Fed payroll, his negatives would be in the Kennedy Library or more likely, National Archive. Instead they were kept as personal property.
I contributed to the looking-into of the O'Donnell-The Arts Company-Kimiko situation.

Credit where credit is due. This story was researched in depth and first published by Marianne Fulton on the Digital Journalist web site. It is her work that has elicited the corrections from several publications who printed the inaccurate obit and the statements from family members and the gallery that represented Mr. O'Donnell. It has also earned her thank you notes from a number of photographers.


Hi Pierce,
Yes, I acknowledged Marianne's primacy on this story in the first article we did about it. You might be coming to this particular post cold, but my readers will be aware of the earlier article. I just now added a link to it at the top of this article just in case.


Agree with Bill Pierce (one of my early photo heros). At least SOMEBODY checked the facts!

I also agree with Mike. People are human and they exaggerate. It's part of human nature to embellish and amplify. But, the fact is, the guy was a fraud and he's hurt a lot of people in both a direct and indirect way. Dementia? Maybe. But, man, I sure hope when I'm 120 years old I don't set up a website and present myself as having taken the NASA "earthrise" photo.

That reminds me of the story of the man who was exposed as a first-class impostor. Over the course of his career, he'd traveled the world, pretending to be a doctor, a lawyer, an aristocrat, a billionaire playboy, and many other roles. In each case, people accepted his claims at face value, and he was able to fully live out his lies, performing surgery, serving in court, and generally living the high life.

Once exposed, he reveled in his notoriety. He appeared on talk shows, gave interviews to magazines, and generally became accepted as a sort of roguish celebrity.

Until, that is, one journalist started digging into his claimed misdeeds, trying to find victims of his frauds. When she couldn't find any, the truth came out.

He was a very talented impersonator, but he'd spent the last several years working in a low-level park job. When he realized that his life was in a rut, instead of going through the trouble of conning all those people, he decided, "Why bother? I'll just impersonate somebody who's done all those things."

This story is entirely apocryphal, and I think I saw it as an amusing anecdote in some movie or another. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. Who's to tell?

I just wonder if all this will actually encourage others to fabricate (if not on such a grand scale), or deter them.

Remember "Zelig"?


Mike, The most recent article about Joyce Hatto, the pianist I wrote about earlier, is in this week's New Yorker:


It's very interesting.

There are a few things that I would like to know.

1) Did he take the photographs in Japan post nuclear attack as portrayed in his book for sale at http://www.vanderbiltuniversitypress.com/bookdetail.asp?book_id=3972 and other venues?
2) When did he start passing others' images as his own. The timeline might factor into the state of his mental health, which was deteriorating in the last few years.
3) Where was he getting his images. I remember the quality was usually mediocre at best.
4) Did his wife Kimiko know the truth?

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