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Like in a murder case we had a forensic expert to help with a new investigation. Black smoke continues to rise from Perpignan. One more photoshopped image is revealed.

By Helle Maj, journalist and Jørn Stjerneklar, photographer

The devil is in the detail. Take a look at this picture:

New York Times will again have to remove a picture from their website

Yes, this picture exhibited at Perpignan 2014 is also photoshopped. It has been confirmed to Mayday Press by Hany Farid, a professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, who specializes in photo forensics. We sent him two photos, one from the book 'Moments' by Doan Cong Tinh, the other from the exhibition in Perpignan, and asked for his opinion:


"I agree with you — there is no doubt that smoke has been added to the image. This is obvious from: (1) a comparison to the image in the book; (2) part of the radio antenna is obscured from what appears to be smoke that was added on the right part of the smoke cloud; and (3) part of a plant  is obscured from what appears to be smoke that was added on the lower left part of the smoke cloud. I am attaching an annotated version where I’ve highlighted these last two areas. Since the smoke is clearly in the background, the superposition of the smoke over objects in the foreground is, of course, impossible."

(If you really want to see how much smoke is added - go here)

So what? A little bit of smoke has been added to the picture. Is that an issue? After all the addiction to smoke is not new to our profession.


From the exhibition “Altered Images: 150 Years of Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography,” which opened Saturday June 20 at the Bronx Documentary Center in New York

Well, let´s get this straight: Visa pour l´Image is a festival for PHOTOJOURNALISM. It is not a festival for art or for staged pictures. It is the real deal. As the founder of the festival Jean-Francois Leroy stated at his Facebook as late as March this year:


So how come Jean-Francoise Leroy in December 2013 travelled all the way to Vietnam with the French photographer Patrick Chauvel to meet with a group of North Vietnamese war photographers whose pictures by nature had to be staged?

Skærmbillede 2015-06-19 kl. 16.52.35

The North Vietnamese photographers covering the Vietnam-war were part of a big state-driven propaganda machine. They know it and they admit it. It was their way to win the war over the mighty superpower United States of America.

Their work was and still is great. But does it belong on the walls of Visa pour l´Image – the temple of photojournalism?
Apperantly so. The four old men from Vietnam recieved a ten minutes long standing ovation in Perpignan. But with more than
220.000 visitors, among them at least 3000 professional photographers, why didn´t anybody notice something was wrong?:


We are sober, so it leads us to the next big question:

If Visa pour l´Image ditches the World Press Photo-exhibition this year due to some staged photos and wrong captions, what will the reaction be from the big sponsors of Visa pour l´Image to this scandal that has hit Perpignan?

Skærmbillede 2015-06-20 kl. 14.17.01

One of the main sponsors of the festival is 'National Geographic'. Can they continue to support a photojournalist-festival that – with this exhibition from Vietnam - has taken the journalism out of the concept?
At least WPP withdrew the 1
st prize from Giovanni Troilo in March when they found out how he had manipulated his photos. It took some time for them to do it, but they did it. WPP managing director Lars Boering earlier this month explanied to PDN Online.

“The focus should be on ethics. There is a generation out there—and it’s not an age thing—that has a different opinion about ethics in photojournalism and we need to find out why that is. In photojournalism, ‘journalism’ should still be the main part. That’s not something we should change.

Ironically it was 'National Geographic' who first published the pictures of the North Vietnamese war photographers. It was back in 2002 in a book called
'Another Vietnam: Pictures of the War from the Other Side', a film titled, "Vietnam's Unseen War" and at a photo exhibition which was shown in Washington, New York and Chicago.

NatGeo copy
National Geographic also uses manipulation. Here's a cover from 1982 where the pyramids were moved closer together. From the exhibition
“Altered Images: 150 Years of Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography”.

Did Patrick Chauvel, the curator of the exhibition in Perpignan 2014, ”borrow” the whole concept of making a book, a film and a photo exhibition with pictures taken by North Vietnamese war photographers? Should we really believe him when he says to the French internet news site 'Rue89' that he only heard about National Geographics' amazing work after he published his own book?

Two covers - one idea? Patrick Chauvel used exactly the same photo for his cover 12 years after National Geographic published the film
"Vietnam's unseen war: Pictures from the other side". Only difference; Chauvel photoshopped a communist out of the picture

Google was invented when Patrick Chauvel in 2013 sold the idea of an exhitbition to Visa pour l´Image. A simple Google search for ”
Photographers North Vietnam” would have given Patrick Chauvel and Leroy the facts immediately: Tim Page, Christopher Riley and Doug Niven with the help of 'National Geographic' had done the work 12 years earlier.

Legendary Vietnam-war photographer Tim Page tells us that he was a little bit surprised when he last year found out a copycat was on the loose, but he is not angry:

”When I heard about Chauvel's exhibition and book launch at Perpignan (on the night), I was only pleased to see a light being shone on the work of these old boys again. The hardship they suffered during the war was extreme”.

That Visa pour l´Image completely ignored the work of him and his colleagues published in 2002 does not bother Tim Page. No way. Not at all. Just a little bit:

”They could at least have invited us to the exhibition”.

He finds it hard to believe that Patrick Chauvel and Visa pour l`Image never heard about the book, film and exhibition 12 years ago. As he says:

”This is their industry!”

Page could have followed up with a
”For Christ Sake” but is polite enough not to.

In 2002 National Geographics' images from North Vietnam were all over the newspapers and was looping on the international broadcasters for a good few weeks. The film
"Vietnam's Unseen War. Pictures from the other side," was nominated for an Emmy.

If the two elderly men - Chauvel and Leroy - can´t remember these stories – wouldn´t they not at least have researched a little on the Internet before making a huge exhibition about the ”Photographers from the North” and selling it as a first ?

Okay, Leroy and Chauvel are French. But we know both of them do speak and read English.

Mayday Press has proven that two of the Vietnam-pictures shown at Perpignan in 2014 are photoshopped. That's the only two we have looked at up till now.


”This is not about Doan Cong Tinh having his image photoshopped - it's about Perpignan using it as an icon picture”, says Tim Page.

Would it not be great if Jean-Francois Leroy after this mess, at this years festival showed the exhibition “
Altered Images: 150 Years of Posed and Manipulated Documentary Photography” which opened Saturday June 20 at the 'Bronx Documentary Center' in New York? An exhibition which has photographer Michael Kamper as curator.

If Visa pour l´Image does not want to confront their mess head on we will all lose.

Not just us in the business of photojournalism. No, the big losers are the people who think they can trust our work. At least until we all become so good at doing photoshopping that not even a forensic expert can see the fake.

Until then: The devil is in the detail.

Disclamer: We are not sponsored by any one :)

Read the five stories about the four Vietnamese photographers
'The battlefield their home, the rivers their darkroom'
'Photographer by mistake'
'The anarchist colonel'
'The creative artist'
'The double armed photographer'
And the four blogs which created all the fuss
The last blog on this topic in 2015
Read it here

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