This image of a Gaza funeral appeared in many media outlets. ExtremeTech now reports:
It turns out that the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year — the largest and most prestigious press photography award — was, in actual fact, a fake. The World Press Photo association hasn’t yet stripped the photographer, Paul Hansen, of the title, but presumably it’s just a matter of time. Rather than discussing the politics of photo manipulation, though — is it faked, or is it merely enhanced? — we’re going to look at how Hansen managed to trick a panel of experienced judges with his shooping skillz, and how a seasoned computer scientist spotted the fraudulent forgery from a mile off.
The photo, dubbed Gaza Burial, was purportedly captured on November 20, 2012 by Paul Hansen. Hansen was in Gaza City when Israeli forces retaliated in response to rocket fire from Palestinian rocket fire. The photo shows two of the casualties of the Israeli attack, carried to their funeral by their uncles. Now, the event itself isn’t a fake — there are lots of other photos online that show the children being carried through the streets of Gaza — but the photo itself is almost certainly a composite of three different photos, with various regions spliced together from each of the images, and then further manipulation to illuminate the mourners’ faces.
The remainder of the article reveals exactly how this was done.
There is no question that the funeral itself took place. But how many times have we seen the manipulation of images from the Middle East conflict?
In our Shattered Lens study of photo bias, we took a look at how the use of cropping and angles were used to create a dramatic perception of a funeral.
In general the study identified distortions of images that mostly fell into the following categories:
Use of wide-angle lenses and photographer positions to make photos appear more dramatic than the reality
Photographers choosing positions that affect the events they are shooting
Editorializing in photo captions.
In the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, manipulating photos to create a dramatic perception goes far beyond a simple touch up of a nature scene or the removal of red eye from a family portrait. Images are, arguably, more powerful than any headline or text in an article and leave a deep and lasting impression.
When it comes to reporting of Israel, those impressions are important in how the world views the country.
The World Press Photo Association should immediately revoke Paul Hansen’s award and demonstrate that unethical and unprofessional photography is unacceptable.