- Opinions from Africa -

ABER WARUM?



How to make a communist disappear for good, throw a piece of rope to Hell and create a new Water World for all of us to admire. In other words - how to Photoshop without being shy - and still reach the world stage of photojournalism.


By Jørn Stjerneklar, photographer



missing
Missing in action?

I, for one, was very happy earlier this year to read that the festival Visa pour l'Image in Perpignan 2015 had decided to exclude the exhibition 'World Press Photo 2015' from the festival.

If you don't know Visa pour l'Image, it can best be described as photojournalisms' answer to the film festival in Cannes. It is the biggest thing in documentary photography, by far.

Jean-Francois Leroy, who is director and founder of the festival, among other things said about the decision,

”the photojournalists whose work we are proud to present do not ask their subject to take off their shirt, and light them up with studio equipment to make them resemble a Dutch painting. ... …(the photographer) Troilo is an artist, maybe even with talent. Furthermore, his self-acclaimed non-journalist status leaves him so much room for expression outside of Visa Pour L’Image. This is why, after a few days of reflection, we have made the decision NOT TO exhibit the World Press this year at Perpignan. It is a painful decision. But the values we stand for are non-negotiable.”

Mr. Leroy was talking about the disgraceful images by Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo. The pics had won a first price in 'Contempary Issues', but Giovanni had not played by the rules. And subsequently lost his first price. Thank you!

I was happy, because for once, staging pictures got punished. Better late than never.

Of course it would have been even better if Visa pour l'Image back in 2010 had excluded World Press Photo 2010 from the festival. That year the winner in the 'General News Story' (series) category, Marco Vernaschi, had cheated big time with just about everything possible. But the jury and director of WPP chose not to take his price away and subsequently Visa pour l'Image did nothing either. Monsieur Leroy should have reacted back then.

But as said above, better late than never.

However, this blog is not about all that. It's about how to be careful, when making bombastic statements...

Visa pour l'Image itself fell into the very deep end when they last year showed the most photoshopped 'documentary' photograph I have ever seen make its way to one of the big platforms in our beloved profession.

How could that happen?

I am just back from a tour to Vietnam where the main purpose for me and journalist Helle Maj had been to interview some of the photographers from North Vietnam who had covered the war and survived. It was really a great honour to meet four of them. You can read five stories about them here on our blog-site.

But during the interview with former photographer Doàn Công Tính I got a shock, a devastating blow to everything I stand for. When he showed me his book 'Moments', on page 162 I saw a completely different image than the one Visa pour l'Image had used to promote their festival in 2014.


Pol2
From the Danish daily Politiken


The very first time I saw that image I was impressed by the power of the photograph.

It's iconic. Nothing less.

Technically very difficult to shoot. Imagine the long shutter speed to get the waterfall motion blurred, the aperture fairly closed down to get the depth of field and still get everything perfect and sharp.

Well, now I know better.


boarding006
Scan of page 162 in Công's book 'Moments'


The above picture is the one which is in Côngs book. I guess you can call it the 'mother photo'. If I had been rich I would have given out a price to anyone for finding out how many elements are out of order in the photoshopped version compared to the original (and it's not the usual five you have in competitions like this). But I am not rich. So I will just let it be up to yourself to count. It's very important to look at the two images side by side, which you can do
here.

I asked Công why he had changed the image so much. He looked down and mumbled that the negative was damaged so it had to be fixed. I was at that moment really in another world.

IMG_1840SM
Công with his book, journalist Helle Maj and a shell-shocked me © Private

So I did not follow up with more questions that afternoon. What I was thinking then and still is: How could that image pass by director Jean-Francois Leroy? And photographer Patrick Chauvel as well, the man who had urged Visa pour l'Image to invite among others Doàn Công Tính?

Why was the picture not ommitted from the show in Perpignan? Not Mr. Công himself, just that single picture?

The first thing Công did the very first time I met him here in April 2015 was to show me his book. Will Chauvel and Leroy tell me that they never saw his book when they visited Doàn Công Tính in Vietnam, December 2013?

I will not really blame Công. He is not a professional photographer, he only worked as such during the war. During his career as a photojournalist he countless of times staged his pictures. He was working in propaganda and for the better of his people. So his standards were always different from ours. I seriously doubt he has the skill or equipment to come up with Photoshop on this level. But that's maybe just me?

But if it is not him, then who?

I am surprised that neither Chauvel nor Leroy noticed the serious differences in the two photos. I mean, I saw instantly that the two images were completely different. How is it possible for two pairs of trained eyes to overlook this blatant work of Photoshop?

I cannot give you an explanation.

Công says the negative is spoiled. But if you look at this Vietnamese homepage from April 8, 2015 they use the original pic.

Comm

So even if the negative was damaged you could use an original print to 'restore' the picture from.

So why use the photoshopped version?

I find it deeply disturbing. Công's 'new' picture has been published in all the big papers worldwide thanks to Visa pour l'Image .

NY
From New York Times Sept. 10 2014

So it's not a small mistake or something we should just brush away. I went to the opening of an exhibition in Hanoi on April 14, 2015 – an exhibition arranged by photographer Patrick Chauvel, the man who claims to have 'found' all the old North Vietnamese photographers. The poster for 'Reporters de guerre' looked like this.

_MG_4071

No wonder Mr. Chauvel did not look well that evening.

A couple of days later I went back to one of the other old war-photographers, Chu Chi Thanh. He is former chairman of the Vietnamese Press Photographers Association. He speaks German so I came without interpreter. I had to get his opinion on this and showed him what I had found out. At first he was in disbelief. But then he found his own copy of Doàn Công Tínhs book and compared with the picture Visa pour l'Image had used. He looked just as shell-shocked as when I found out.

"Aber warum”? Said Chu Chi Thanh. And then: ”Warum”? Ending with, ”est ist betrug!”

I do agree. It is fraud.

PS We have made a follow up on this, the plot thickens

Other useful links concerning this story:

http://www.anothervietnam.com/project.html

http://www.duckrabbit.info/2011/02/faking-it-how-to-win-a-world-press-award-but-get-banned-from-a-wildlife-comp-for-life/

Marco Vernaschi 2

Marco Vernaschi 3
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