Fauxtography

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Fauxtography is the term used to describe photographs that have been doctored with photo-editing software, staged to increase dramatic or emotive effect, or mis-captioned to provide a false meaning to the scene. "Fauxtography" usually describes photos that have been manipulated to promote a particular political point of view. The term was coined by Charles Johnson, proprietor of the weblog Little Green Footballs in the context of the Lebanon/Israel conflict. Fauxtography is frequently used by liberals a part of their deceit.

In August 2006, a reader of Little Green Footballs notified Charles that a photo by Adnan Hajj showed evidence of having been manipulated using the Photoshop "clone" tool or its equivalent. Further examination of Hajj's photos by bloggers revealed that a second photo had also been altered electronically. In response, Reuters discontinued its relationship with Hajj and pulled all 920 of Hajj's photos.

Further questions about Hajj's photographs involve:

  • photos of the same site submitted on separate dates
  • a woman who appears to have lost two homes in two different places on two different occasions
  • two bridges given the same name

In the wake of this discovery, bloggers began to examine photos of the Lebanon/Israel conflict from other photographers. Suspected examples of staging, misleading captions, or other fakery include the following:

  • a rescue worker displaying the body of a child allegedly killed in Israel's bombardment of Qana for what may have been a span of four hours[
  • a series of photos of a tire fire misidentified as a downed Israeli jet. One of the photos appeared on the cover of the July 31, 2006 issue of U.S. News & World Report (Headlines: "Dangerous Liaisons: How radicals in Iran are rolling the Middle East from Lebanon to Iraq. What's really behind the violence. The region's new rocket threat. Israel's defense chief: Baptism by fire. Fouad Ajami on Lebanon's agony."). A photo from the same series appeared in Time Magazine with a caption identifying the fire as coming from a downed Israeli jet. Time admitted the error to "Gunny Bob," a radio host, in an e-mail.

In the wake of this discovery, bloggers began to examine photos of the Lebanon/Israel conflict from other photographers. Suspected examples of staging, misleading captions, or other fakery include the following:

  • A photo of a car whose caption says that it was hit by "Israeli ware [sic] plane missiles" in Kfar Zabad. Readers of the blog Hot Air point out that the car is not damaged enough to have been hit by a missile, e.g., the windshield is still intact, and that the hole in the top is most likely a missing sunroof.
  • A photo of an ambulance whose caption says "Under fire: missile damage on the clearly marked ambulances, hit while caring for injured in the town of Qana." Dan Riehl at the blog Riehl World View observes that the ambulance does not appear to have sustained damage from a missile: the hole in the roof and accompanying dents are covered with rust and there is no charring from the explosion that allegedly accompanied the missile strike. He further points out inconsistencies between the various versions of the story.
  • A series of photos of post-bombing rubble that show a child's toy featured prominently in the foreground. The blogger notes that the toys are too clean to have survived an explosion and suspects that they were placed by the photographer.
  • A photo in a NY Times photo essay of a man who, at first glance, appears to be pulling a dead man from the rubble. The caption reads, "The mayor of Tyre said that in the worst-hit areas, bodies were still buried under the rubble, and he appealed to the Israelis to allow government authorities time to pull them out." Further examination of the photo led some bloggers to conclude that the "dead" man was in fact alive, and that he had posed for the photo. However, NPR posted the same photo with the following caption: "After an Israeli airstrike destroyed a building in Tyre, Lebanon, one man helps another who had fallen and was hurt."
  • A photo of a rescue worker pulling a dead child from the rubble, an event which one blogger thinks might have been "stretched out" for the benefit of photographers.

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