Look at These Fakers

In Today’s Post

  • Photographers who tried to pull the wool over our eyes.
  • Video of the week.

Read Time: 5 Minutes

With the rapid advancement in computing technology and the incredible ability we now have to alter our photographs beyond reality, it can be difficult to know where the line is.

In fact, is there a line at all when it comes to processing our images?

Even I, the biggest critic of A.I. am beginning to soften. Heck, I think Generative Fill is one of the best things since the tripod was invented.

I suppose it all comes down to the photographer’s intention. 

Are they simply trying to bring the best out of their RAW file & create a piece of visual art or are they trying to trick the viewer into believing something that isn’t real?

The grey area in this is HUGE, and ultimtely it doesn’t matter… until it does.

Whenever I find myself in the company of photographers, especially when the fire is on & the drinks are flowing, the conversation always turns to Photography Competition Fakers. 

I love this subject & find it quite amusing.

Winning a photography competition can do great things for ones career; the prestige, respect, fame and of course, fortune. 

It’s no wonder then, that some photographers have tried to cheat their way to victory.

Here are the best & most audacious photography fakers.

1 – Nikon, Look Up!

In January 2016 Nikon was forced to apologise to photographers after it emerged it had awarded the winning prize spot in their monthly ‘Nikon Captures’ photo competition to what turned out to be an obviously composited image. 

Eagle eyed photographers quickly spotted that the winning photo of a plane flying above a building was edited and the plane had in fact been added into the shot at a later time.

‘Look Up’ by Singaporean photographer Chay Yu Wei was disqualified after being dishonest about his image. Mr Chay originally stated he ‘chanced upon some ladders while on a photo walk of Singapore’s Chinatown and thought it would make an interesting shot’, telling people he did not have to wait too long for a plane to pass overhead.

After being forced to reveal his image was faked, he admitted the plane had been a “playful edit” and was “not meant to bluff anyone”. He said he had been joking about being lucky to catch the shot but that he crossed a line entering it into the competition.

Read more about this image here.

2 – Get Stuffed!

The Natural History museum which administers the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award has taken down its winning entry of the ‘Animals in their natural environment’ category after it was found to show a stuffed taxidermy specimen. See the winning image below.

Following a thorough investigation involving two mammal experts and a taxidermy specialist from the museum, in addition to two South American experts, it was concluded that the winning photograph features the dead anteater that greets visitors at the entrance to Brazil’s Emas National Park. See image below.

Despite the image being stripped of its title and removed from show, photographer Marcio Cabral has always maintained the integrity of the image stating he ‘spent days frustrated by rain in Emas National Park before a giant anteater ambled out of the darkness.’

Read more about this image here.

3 – The Lynx Effect

A photographer has been caught out faking images after a hunting expert spotted that an image of a Lynx cat that photographer, Terje Helleso, claimed he took in summer was wearing its winter coat.

After investigating further, it was revealed that Helleso had faked hundreds of images over several years by manipulating stock photographs from the internet into new images. 

He was later stripped of his 2010 Swedish Photographer of the Year award as a result.

Helleso, the humbled cheat, explained: ‘I was under pressure, mostly from myself, and I gave in to temptation’. He added: ‘Looking back, I’m surprised that I got away with it for so long, and that I managed to keep up appearances to my wife and everyone else.’

Read more about this image here.

4 – Wolf of Wall Gate Street

Photographer José Luis Rodriguez was stripped of both his title and £10,000 prize money in 2010 after the judges of Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year award became convinced he hired a tame wolf to use in his winning shot, despite rules prohibiting the use of trained animals.

The organisers were first alerted to suspicions about the image by Spanish photographers. They recognised the wolf and its location as the Cañada Real wildlife park. Wolf experts also questioned why the wolf would jump the gate when a wild animal was more likely to squeeze between the slats.

Rodriguez could not back up his narrative with any evidence and the competition organisers say he continues to strongly deny the wolf was tame.

Read more about this image here.

5 – I.A.n’t Buying It

The image that won an Australian weekly photo competition, run by DigiDirect, has been revealed as being entirely generated by AI. Showing 2 surfers paddling out to sea at sunrise, photographer Jane Eykes was said to have taken her shot using a drone.

However, just a short time after the winning announcement was made Eykes made her confession and stated she had entered under false pretences. 

Eykes said she wanted to prove that ‘we are at a turning point with artificially intelligent technology by passing the ultimate test’.

Read more about this image here.

6 – A Plot Twist

Suzi Dougherty was shocked to discover that a simple image taken on her mobile phone, for a photography contest, had been disqualified. Judges of the contest, held by the print shop Charing Cross Photo, deemed it suspicious and believed it may have been generated by AI.

The photo was actually taken on Dougherty’s mobile phone and showed her son Casper standing alongside 2 mannequins as they posed and positioned for no more than 10 minutes. Dougherty has seen the funny side of the mix up however, later saying she has no hard feelings for the store despite them admitting her photo did not contravene the T&Cs.

Read more about this image here.

My Thoughts

In all honesty, I find all of these stories amusing & have no hard feelings towards any of the photographers. Although, I might feel differently if one of my images had missed out on a winning spot.

With regards to Suzi Dougherty’s story; this concerns me more than any of the above. We work tirelessly to create the best work we can, and it is a big worry if peoples first thought is: A.I. 

I have 2 landscape photography books available. Both will fill you with ideas and inspiration for your next landscape photography adventure. Take a Look.

Video of the Week

Move by Will Gadd

It’s an oldy, but still a video I find myself watching time and time again as I fight the urge to sit on the sofa & watch Top Gear all day. This video highly motivates me to get up, get out & keep moving.