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Sunday, 16 August 2009


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I wanted to read his apologia, I really did, but I am not sure it was one. MS Word finds 16,508 characters in that thing, while I can only find 12 in "Sorry, I lied."

I'm not sure where the discrepancy crept in.

(I'm also almost positive Friedrich Nietzsche never wrote much about the ethics of Photoshop.)

I couldn't even successfully skim it, but it certainly sounds like "My photography represents Truth, not truth."

" If it had been presented as "art photography," there's absolutely not a thing wrong with anything Edgar Martins has done. "

IMHO, this is irrelevant. Edgar said that his work was not manipulated. Therefore, he lied. It doesn't matter if it is art or journalism; it's a lie...

I agree with the Times and others, Edgar was caught and instead of admiting something everyone would understand, a really bad call (given Edgar's work) he's just (in my opinion) destroying all the crediblity an artist has. The worst part for me is the lying, I never liked Edgar's work before, I saw him in our homecountry (Portugal) when he won the BES award but I did have respect for him...

João M.

If you think the explanations at the NYT blog are obtuse, don't bother trying to read to "apologia" - which isn't very apologetic.
Edgars also claims there that he never misrepresented his work to NYT.
He seems to show a stunning lack of comprehension of the issues under discussion.


I'm usually not a fan of the "tl;dr"* response to things like that, but, gah. That's about the only response that really applies here. What a load of poorly proofread blather (and in a horrible font, to boot).

My background is in academia, so I have far more experience in reading dense theory, pompous blather and badly written student papers than I'd like, and a good tolerance for all of the above. This made me throw up my hands within the first few sentences. It is that bad.

*too long; didn't read

My summary of Martins's response: "Having been caught in an indefensible lie, I will now obfuscate my way out: Because there's no 'truth,' y'know, there are no 'lies' either."

Oy. But he may nonetheless continue his success. Gibberish is currency in certain realms, and Edgar's got boatloads!

If there is any justice, though, shunning should be his reward.

With Martin's unrivaled load of B.S., perhaps he should seek a career in politics.

Dear Mike,

Read it, grokked it.

Yeah, on the metalevel, it's BS. I could have taken 90% of what he'd said and turned it into a proper, or at least plausible, mea culpa, with another five minutes' work. Really; it'd have been easy.

That he didn't says that either he's in complete denial about having screwed up or he's lying through his teeth.

Given the way artists work, I'm actually more inclined towards the former. Still doesn't the least bit speak well of him.

pax / Ctein

If there is journalistic digression here, it seems to lie more with the NYT photo editors who hired Martins and less with the artist who made the images. A quick look at his website shows that his use of flipping half of the shot for that balanced look is a primary device of this artist. The Times should have made it more clear to the artist aside from having it in the contract, and then checked his product before publishing.

I have mixed feelings about this. While it may have been "documentary photography," I'm not sure it misrepresents what he was documenting...uncompleted buildings. The fact that the digitally enhanced the symmetry of a house does not alter the fact that it was uncompleted. I'm more of the mind of "who cares" in this situation.

That he at first said he didn't do it was just a lie, and the piffle, drivel and swill he represented as an explanation is inexcusable.

He asks a couple of questions and answer them in the middle - to quote:
"I believe it is more pertinent to ask: can we look at an image at one and the same time as a fact and a construct and be aware of the processes that underpin it?
I believe we can.
And does this invalidate its journalistic purpose?
I don't know."
The answer to the second question should have been "yes". They're the rules. The journalistic purpose is, as well as you can, tell the truth.
His problem seems to be that he wants to educate everyone else about journalism and truth. Don't bother. We made our mind up long ago.

I pulled Mr. Martins' book "Topologies" off my shelf. It contains an interview with David Campany. In it Mr. Martins states:

"I have always been very careful not to tamper with my images, in order to allow for this 'third meaning' to exist. In the case of my work, what seems like a highly controlled and manipulated photograph is just a product of illusion-the illusion of the photographic process. This is especially evident in "The Accidental Theorist" Most people assume that these images are manipulated, or perhaps even staged, In reality there is no postproduction work, no darkroom or computer manipulation"

It's not manipulation it's really the illusion of the photographic process..hahahaha...Ohmygod, Edgar, you are soooo busted.

At least one photo in this book on page 20, "Untitled from The Accidental Theorist" is very obviously manipulated through mirroring. And i'm not going to bother looking for more. The photo on the back cover is titled "The burden of Proof".

Ok, best laugh i've had for awhile!

That said, it's too bad Edgar feels the need to conceal his post-processing manipulation like a dirty secret. "Topologies" is a very beautiful book. The images possess a haunting stillness shared by those in the Times series. But what kind of person puts lies like this into bold black print? Is he deluded? Crazy? On drugs? And that his comedown came at the hands of a guy who merely uploads photos of his kids to his computer is the final irony. You go, Unixrat!

(Hiya Mike..it's been awhile! kathleen~)

First of all, I have to note for those who missed it that "apologia" does not mean apology. An apologia is a formal written defense, not an admission of guilt.

That said, I read the dead-tree edition of the NYT every Sunday and I definitely recall reading that the pictures were not digitally manipulated, full stop. Any response by Mr. Martins that does not start and end with the phrases "I lied" and "I'm sorry" with no caveats or ellipses is completely disingenuous and inadequate. Honestly I thought that phrase was kind of odd anyway; why insist right up front that there was no digital manipulation, a claim that is technically false anyway if the photographs passed through any kind of analog-to-digital transition at any point, including being simply scanned and reprinted?

Whoa, dyathink's back!! Cool. Hi Kathleen.


Okay, I read the first and last paragraph. Regardless of whatever photographic sins he committed, that boy can't write to save his life.

I'm just glad he wrote the "apologia" and didn't speak it. We've thus been spared from a sudden jump in global warming due to an unnecessary increase in CO2 emissions. And we've also got on record an almost unbelievable bit of gobbeldygook that should serve English and Literacy teachers as a case study for many, many years.

It's really a shame that he's reduced himself to something like this as the non manipulated (one presumes) images in the series are all strong and all hold their own. Perhaps he's seeking perfection and control in something he should have just accepted as it was.

The whole thing has been reduced to an embarassing diatribe now. He's probably burnt a lot of bridges that no amount of retouching will fix.

As much as I try I don't really see any problem anywhere, only perhaps the fact that on slow news days people should refrain form posting and or reporting matters like this. It is of no importance whatsoever to anyone. And maybe I'm wrong and that the issue is really very important in which case I would like to find out why exactly?

What could possibly be added to this discussion that would add something of value? I am glad Eric Means said it: "apologia" does not mean "apology".

I must disagree with what Mário Nogueira has written above: if the work had been framed differently (e.g. "art" rather than "journalism") I think there would have been less of a kerfuffle. I say this because I do not really know what it means when an artist "lies" in the creation of his work (although a dishonest journalist is another matter, as I use journalism for different ends). Many of those who view a work will be ignorant of the artist's methods, intentions -- and yet the work may still affect them. Well-done pictures have emotional content -- at least I feel something specific, a sense of desolation, lonliness(?), when I view Martins' spaces. The feeling is related to, but not the same as, the feeling I get when I see many of Edward Hopper's paintings. Also William Eggleston's urban landscapes. I think the images are very effective in that sense and I assume the effect on me is not accidental. Viewed as art, what's the worst we could say: the artist lied to me so that I would more effectively feel a sense of loneliness? Do I now feel less of a sense of desolation when viewing those spaces, knowing that they are the spaces Martins imagined, rather than ones he found? I do not.

The explanatory force of Martins' piece is blunted considerably because he does not express himself clearly. I do not know whether if he was unwilling or unable to do so. If I had as little to say in my own defense as Martin, I would have said nothing at all. Perhaps, then, it is all a big joke. But that style of academic writing has always made me grind my teeth (followed by an irrational desire to resurrect Samuel Clemens, provide him with a literary rubber pipe, and turn him loose).

Ben Marks

I find manipulated pictures much easier to forgive than the tortured prose he inflicted on the world.

That said, the whole issue is still just ethical theater. The Times is making a big deal out of banning him for manipulated architectural photos, while sticking to a "he said, she said" style of reporting in the political arena. If they actually want to pursue ethics, they should start publishing notes like this: "Senator Grassley has, once again, been caught manipulating the truth by lying about death panels, and so the Times will no longer be publishing his work."

That'll be the day.

To quote the professor who graded a paper that Robert Klein, the comedian, wrote in college,"get a bigger shovel".


The photo editor should get out the pen and start writing too. They both failed in this situation. The photographer/artist for not being totally truthful and the photo editor for not securing the appropriate person for the assignment and not spotting the problem while reviewing the submitted portfolio.

"And maybe I'm wrong and that the issue is really very important in which case I would like to find out why exactly?"

You *are* wrong, in my opinion. A documentary photograph is like a verbal statement: it might not BE truth, but truth should be recoverable from it if it is honestly represented. In certain pursuits, like journalism, honesty is favored and deceit is frowned upon. The convention in that field is for the authors of statements to report honestly, which includes not deliberately changing the look of photographs and then saying they didn't. The documentary photograph is not an interpretation or an artistic allegory, it is a witness, and the hope is for it to be reliable as such as far as it goes. Martins' sin, perhaps not a very great one in the grand scheme of things, is analogous to perjury.


From Edgar Martin's apologia: ". . . ontological, epistemological and moral chasm concerning truth, verisimilitude, and authenticity,. . ."

Yes, when I read such phrases as part of a defense for having been caught modifying photographs which were commissioned by a news organisation, I know we are headed into deep, philosophical, male bovine excrement filled waters. Following up with blaming the Times for not telling him not to do it is just a bit of jetsam on those waters. I could read no further.

"In June this year I completed the fist stage of an artist-in-residency program"...

What is a fist stage? That sounds alarmingly suspect to me.

..."at one of the most unique natural habitats in the world, in Florida."

I didn't realise "unique" was comparative - I always thought it was an absolute term; like "pregnant", or like (say) "unmanipulated".

OK, that's the first sentence negotiated. I think I'll go and lie down.

BTW, I don't know if you noticed, but in Aperture's site the text describing Topologies changed from "With artful composition and controlled framing—but no digital manipulation—Edgar Martins creates..." to "With artful composition and controlled framing Edgar Martins creates..."

Art or Journalism, I don't care... :S

What puzzles me was whether anything was actually gained (besides the NYT assignment that came to an already recognized artist) by asserting that no digital manipulation is involved. In the art world where he evolved, I don't see many caring for those things.

I think there is more substance in Martins defense than others do, but it is buried in some mind-numbing verbosity. Martins is Portuguese, so perhaps some of that is the result of non-native English usage, or perhaps in his culture written expression tends more toward story and digression than thesis-based argument and exposition.

In any event, of what I read (and I did not make it all the way through), the most interesting statement, as far as a defense goes, was in the middle of the second section: "I did not present the work as something it wasn't nor did I obscure or conceal the relevant constructions and originals." If in fact he was up front about the work, and especially if the Times had access to the RAW files or original jpegs, then this becomes a different, and more complicated, issue.

What really bugs me is that the photographer and the NYT allowed substandard photography like what was used in the article to be used in the first place. I don't mean to be critical, but if you are going to manipulate photographs, don't you think it would have been for better ones?

Martins and the NYT is better than this.

Not having high journalistic expectations of the Times Magazine in the first place, I am not as outraged as some (though I am somewhat), and a little amused by the editors' pretensions. I think the NYT Mag is a very good culture, fashion and design magazine, but with often questionable "news" pieces (the most common sin being one-sided, simplistic presentations of complex issues), and I don't think this problem is particular to the Times Mag, either, among its ilk.

Ironically, the more credence one gives the editors' journalistic pretensions in this matter, the more guilty they appear of negligence and poor judgement. On the other hand, Martins had promoted himself and his work as documentary and free of post-process manipulation, so he did misrepresent what he was about. Other than that, without knowing the parties' understanding of terms and the relevant editorial discussions, I can't judge who was more at fault.

The most disappointing thing at this point, especially in light of Mike C.'s Picasso anecdote, is that in all this time, neither the Times nor Martins seized the opportunity to explore any of the contextual issues worth discussing and examining about their own and others' attitudes, expectations and practices regarding photography, illustration, art, flavors of journalism, etc. Instead, the Times blamed the photographer for everything and the photographer blew smoke.

Regarding Edgar Martins somewhat painful response, and keeping it within the best context befitting his response, I shall quote from the best source possible.

"Make it stop"...
George Lewis Costanza

Me thinks he dost protest too much...

Don't think it's anything to do with being Portugese: Martins writes like someone whose first language isn't language. He's not the first visual artist to struggle with words. I think I'm more sympathetic to what he's trying to say than some of you. What representations were made to the NYT and what did they read into hs work? It's possible the whole thing is the result of poor communication and wishful thinking; equally, it's possible that untruths were told. Wasn't there, don't know.

What I do know is that for some time I have really liked his work, however he gets there, and I feel rather sorry for him now. What he did/what happened to him was hugely humiliating, whatever the truth, and his essay reads to me as by someone really struggling to come to terms with that. I think there is a distancing from responsibility because it must be very painful to see one's reputation go up in smoke. Over the centuries, lots of artists have bragged, mislead, exaggerated, overpriced their work, pretended work by their assistants was their own, ripped off their patrons and their dealers, lied and worse (so have most of the rest of us, come to that). And gey few of the little bastards ever said sorry. Given the choice between the works of an entirely truthful Richard Prince, for example, and Martins' work, whatever his faults, I'd far rather have Martins.

Perhaps it's time just to go back to looking at his work--he's suffered enough, I suspect.

PS yes, I know I'm not dealing with the wider issues. I just don't feel like it this evening, OK?

It is incredible that everyone here seems to think photography in its "pure" form (whatever that is) is some magical arbiter of "Truth" which it cannot be and never-has-been. From the very moment of pointing the camera at a subject and taking a "subjective edit" of it you are in fact "lying" about reality. Non-photoshopped images are very capable of false statements all by themselves. We accept a print journalist will edit their words and so too will a "documentary" film-maker - but not a photographer. We accept the previous two based on our trust of the source - or we at least compare several different sources. This notion of "pure and noble documentary photographic Truth" never existed. The Emperor is butt naked and sitting on an elephant in the room.

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