Thanks to a little photo editing and social media, one guy has managed to fool established media outlets and 120K Instagram followers that he was a conflict photographer. The guy has sold fake images to everyone from Le Monde, to The Telegraph, BBC Brazil, The Wall Street Journal and even Getty Images. Now, journalists and photographers are trying to figure out what happened.
The fake photographer went by the name of Eduardo Martins. He is reportedly 32 years old and hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He is said to have survived childhood leukemia and was known as “a sought-after, accomplished war photojournalist for the UN with a passion for surfing.” Sounds like he’s a heart-warming guy, except that we can’t buy anything this guy says.
It was a BBC Brazil journalist, Natasha Ribeiro, who exposed Martins’ lies. But Ribeiro wasn’t the first journalist to call him out. Waves site columnist and war photographer Fernando Costa Netto was the first person to see through the lies. Netto had written an article on Martins praising his work. However, “after receiving tip-offs from news organizations” about Martins authenticity, Netto decided to get in touch with the Brazilian to clarify things.
That’s when the fake photographer decided to fall off the face of the earth by going offline. Martins emailed Netto back, writing, “I'm in Australia. I've made the decision to spend a year in a van. I'll delete everything online, including internet. I want to be in peace, we'll see each other when I get back. For anything, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A big hug. I'm going to delete the zap. God be with you. A hug."
Soon, other photographers started to notice weird things about Martins’ photos. Photographer Ignacio Aronovich, for instance, noticed that in some of the photos where Martin is featured with his camera, the shutter button is seen on the left side of the camera. Aronovich found this strange because he knows that most camera shutter buttons are on the right.
So Aronovich took Martins’ photos and did a Google reverse image search. That’s when he learned that the images belonged to another photographer. Martins had been reversing the images the whole time and fooling everyone in the process.
What’s worse is that Martins didn’t just lie about who took the photo. The descriptions of the photos were also incorrect. Martins cites Aleppo and Syria in some of the images while Aronovich found that they were really taken in Kafr Nabl by American photographer Daniel C. Britt. Martins’ actions were only making it harder for people to believe the news.
Britt, the man who took the photos, told Mashable that he wasn’t aware his work was being resold “by a social media geek for the last two years…Eduardo Martins, whoever he is, was clever enough to slip passed the editors of several magazines and The Wall Street Journal. Like I said to other journalists, I'm just disappointed that Eduardo Matins bastardized the photo captions and gave people yet another reason to distrust the news. Each photograph was part of a specific time and place."
"Some of the people depicted in them are no longer with us," Britt explained. "Their lives mattered. The lives of my interpreters, fixers and everyone who helped us along the way mattered. The value of these photos is more than the pittance Eduardo got from the agencies or his number of 'Likes' on Facebook."
Now that Martins has been exposed, media outlets are working to undo the damage. They are retracting their stories about Martins, including BBC Brazil where a long profile of Martins was published. In this profile, Martins was quoted as saying that he wanted people “to see this reality” — by “this” he meant the tragic every day going on in Iraq.
Ribeiro, the BBC Brazil journalist who exposed Martins, suspected something was off when she started asking about Martins among other journalists. Ribeiro learned that Brazilian journalists who were in Iraq never knew anyone by the name of Martins, despite the fact that this war photographer had claimed to be there and had the pictures to prove it.
"No one, among authorities and non-governmental organizations in Syria or Iraq, has ever seen or heard about Eduardo Martins." Moreover, Martins had said that he was “a humanitarian (volunteer) in the United Nations (UN) field.” However, when “no records of Martins working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees were found” as Adrian Edwards, the organization’s press chief confirmed.
Hepworth-Povey found out that his identity was stolen by one of his editors. “I was relaxing, sipping wine, when a friend from Wavelength magazine contacted me saying that someone has stolen my identity in a kind of a prank on internet…It's crazy that some random guy decided to use my image while there are some many options throughout the Internet,” Hepworth-Povey explained, adding that he hated that this conman “glamouri[sed] a country at war.”