Thursday, July 9, 2009

Photography Scandal!

ARTmostfierce interviewed photographer Edgar Martins about a year ago  (see and read here) and HE swore that, HE never got involved in any type of image manipulation while creating his great photographs. Well...his latest editorial work with the NY Times has come under great scrutiny after some EAGLE EYES found that Edgar Martins work was seriously photo-shoped and manipulated to death!

I am not a big fan of manipulated photographs unless, A-the artist uses it to take photography to another creativity level (Burtynsky, Gorsky, Gregory Crewdson, Jill Greenburg)  and B-they come clean about it. Sorry folks but, I can't hide my disappointment knowing about it!

I haven't been closely following this budding controversy over the photos by Edgar Martins that appeared in Sunday's New York Times Magazine, but I think that's because what coverage I have seen underplays the seriousness of the issue by referring to "digitally altered" photographs. In fact, that's how the Times itself phrased it when they took the photos down pending further review (suspicions were apparently first raised by a commenter at MetaFilter). When I hear digitally altered, I think of the usual ethical dust-ups over filters, brushing up details, or removing inconvenient obstructions in the line of sight.

But it turns out that in fact the images weren't merely altered, they were digitally composed. Elements of the images were real photos, but the photos were manipulated in such a way that the final product was not in fact a reproduction of an image that an observer would be able to see in real life. Artistically, they were compelling, as you can see here. Journalistically they were fakes. And The Times has now admitted as much in a new "Editor's Note" published today:

A picture essay in The Times Magazine on Sunday and an expanded slide show on entitled "Ruins of the Second Gilded Age" showed large housing construction projects across the United States that came to a halt, often half-finished, when the housing market collapsed. The introduction said that the photographer, a freelancer based in Bedford, England, "creates his images with long exposures but without digital manipulation."
A reader, however, discovered on close examination that one of the pictures was digitally altered, apparently for aesthetic reasons. Editors later confronted the photographer and determined that most of the images did not wholly reflect the reality they purported to show. Had the editors known that the photographs had been digitally manipulated, they would not have published the picture essay, which has been removed from NY

One picture shows an evenly-lit room in an unsold mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut. The room appears near-perfect in its symmetry, down to have two identical thermostats and light switch plates facing each other on opposite walls. There are also repeating patterns in the leaves on the floor.

Another picture shows a Las Vegas development with construction fencing in the foreground. The piece of fence on the left is a perfect mirror of the one on the right.


Unknown said...


You know, you really ought to point out that the discovery of the "digitally composed" work in the New York Times has lead to the further discovery that ALL of Martins previous work has been heavily "digitally composed" as well. For examples I suggest you follow the two threads on Metafilter (where this issue first came to light thanks to the poster Unixrat). There you'll find many, many examples of his digital manipulations throughout his career.

Here's the first thread. And here's the other.

ruben said...


I think Edgar needs to release a statement and come clean about it.

Anonymous said...

Edgar refused to accept that idea, and commented to a portuguese newspaper ( that he used digital manipulation several times. Where is his mind?
I'm a portuguese artist and lot of people here in Portugal knew this manipulation before it became this scandal! So nothing new to us. But I appreciate how you in the US take this cases!