• Sweden's news in English

Swedish photographer cleared of manipulation

15 May 2013, 15:09

Published: 15 May 2013 15:09 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

"Following recent discussion and speculation in the media about the photograph by Paul Hansen (...) World Press Photo has submitted the image files for a forensic analysis," the Amsterdam-based organization announced in a statement on Tuesday.

The inquiry focused in large part, however, on whether the image was a "composite" - with elements added or subtracted, which drew the ire of photographers on social media sites.

"So the moral of this story goes... go hog wild on photoshop as long as you don't erase or add anything to an image it's fair game. Disgusting," said one well-known photographer on Facebook, where professionals and laymen alike took turns sharing their thoughts.

World Press Photo, meanwhile, said that Hansen, who is a staff photographer for Sweden's largest daily Dagens Nyheter, had cooperated in the investigation. He submitted the original, unedited RAW file and the JPG that he sent in to the contest last year.

"The purpose of the investigation into the authenticity and editing history of the picture is to curtail any further speculation about the integrity of the image and to establish that it is not a composite," the organization stated.

"It is clear that the published photo was retouched with respect to both global and local colour and tone. Beyond this, however, we find no evidence of significant photo manipulation or compositing."

On Twitter, however, many photographers and editors seemed apt to disagree with the organization's narrow definition of manipulation.

"still think there is just too much photoshop and no need 2 add more drama either!" wrote one, a sentiment shared by users on other sites.

"Still seems he went a little too far in the final interpretation of the RAW file he made into the winning image," said another US photographer.

It is not the first time Hansen has landed in hot water. After the 2011 earthquake in Haiti, he photographed a girl shot dead after being mistaken for a looter. The image was later questioned by media organizations in Sweden because the body appeared to be lying in different positions in different photographers' images.

Hansen explained that it took half an hour for the girl's relatives to arrive, and real looters went up to body and moved it around in the mean-time. Other images from the scene show a shole of at least seven photojournalists taking pictures next to the body, where the girl's face is turned toward them.

Following his WPP win, several observers expressed confusion over the light source in the image. The image depicts a funeral train in a narrow alley, with pronounced side-lighting and shadowing on the grieving family members' faces.

In its verdict, the revered photo organization published a summary of its experts shadow analysis - but made reference to the fact that situations can have more than one source of light.

It went on to address the over-arching question of post-production alterations.

"When I compare the RAW file with the prizewinning version I can indeed see that there has been a fair amount of post-production, in the sense that some areas have been made lighter and others darker," Eduard de Kam, digital photography expert NIDF (Nederlands Instituut voor Digitale Fotografie) was quoted as saying in the press release.

"But regarding the positions of each pixel, all of them are exactly in the same place in the JPEG (the prizewinning image) as they are in the RAW file. I would therefore rule out any question of a composite image."

This may prove not to be a convincing argument for some, as the limits of photoshopping are deemed a hot-button topic for many photojournalist.

A Reuters freelance photographer was caught out in 2006 for replicating smoke from a bomb in Beirut to make the cloud look bigger - an incident dubbed Reutersgate.

Reuters again got caught out in 2010 with an Icelandic image from the volcanic eruption that caused an ash cloud and air traffic chaos. It was so heavily manipulated that it not only resembled a Edward Munch painting, but caught the angry eye of a photo editor at the Sydney Morning Herald.

Reuters sent out a correction.

This week's finale to the Hansen saga, meanwhile, may or may not put the lid on months of debate. Already in February, a long article on the journalistic merit of heavily edited images appeared on the Peta Pixel blog.

"The typical argument for allowing such manipulation is that this is no different than what was done in the darkroom," noted author Allen Murabayashi, co-founder of PhotoShelter.

"But to me this is an irrelevant argument. We don’t use darkrooms, nor film anymore."

Story continues below…

As news of WPP defending Hansen against his critics emerged on Tuesday, many professional photographers pointed out on social media that even the rudimentary act of choosing what lens to use was a type of manipulation. Using a fish-eye, one person noted, also produced images that were not true to life, due to the distortion such a lens created.

Photojournalists, however, have long grappled with how to edit digital images - as that medium developed - to correspond to what they see on the ground. Just like media consumers expect text journalist not to lie, many in the profession feel compelled by story telling rather than artistry. The line where the latter enhances the former is where complexities lie.

Murabayashi concluded his take on the Hansen debate by asking the picture industry for new guidelines that better fit the technology of today.

"Where the content, exposure and composition speak more about the efficacy of the photographer as a newsperson, rather than his/her ability to tone an image until we feel an emotion."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Swedish researchers plan new trucks for women drivers
File photo of trucks in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Could vehicles adapted for women attract more female truckers to the profession?

These stats show Swedish driving isn't so gender equal
File photo of a Swedish woman driving a car. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A new survey shows that few Swedish women get behind the wheel when driving with their male partner.

Revealed: Game of Thrones could be coming to Sweden
Game of Thrones cast members at the Emmy Awards in September. Photo: Jordan Strauss/AP

The producers of the hit show have asked for three rounds of location pictures of Swedish island Gotland.

Prime Minister to meet Swedish troops in Iraq
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his Kurdish counterpart Nechervan Barzani. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Löfven is set to meet Swedish troops in Iraq on Tuesday.

Swedish politicians wage war on winter time
Soon it will look like this on your way home from work in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Should Sweden stick with summer time all year round?

'Don't turn the Pope into a global teddy bear'
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Leonore visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

It's time to hold the Pope to account and make sure he turns his words about reform into action, argues a minister of the Swedish Church ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Sweden.

Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available