NYT's Photoshopping photographer speaks
A few weeks ago, the PDN Pulse alleged that several images in a photo essay in the New York Times Magazine had been digitally altered. The Times responded with an editor's note claiming that the photographer, Edgar Martins, "creates his images with long exposures but without digital manipulation." That wasn't true. The Times eventually withdrew the photo essay citing concerns that the pictures might not accurately reflect reality. But to the best of my knowledge, neither The Times nor Martins has explained how Martins, a freelancer, represented his work to the paper.
If Martins was upfront about the alterations, then the Times violated its own ethics guidelines by publishing them as news--as opposed to works of digital art or illustrations. Or, maybe Martins misrepresented his work, but that means that the photo editors at the New York Times Magazine got punked by easily detectable fakery.
Now, Lens, the NYT's photojournalism blog is giving Martins a platform to explain how he tweaked his images. Therein, he admits to altering five of the six images in the photo essay.
Martins also responds a greater length in a completely incoherent and insufferably pretentious essay. The main thrust seems to be that this whole incident reflects photography's inadequacies rather than his own.
The Times is letting its readers down by not giving the readers a straight answer about when the editors learned that the photos had been altered. In this, the paper and the photographer are projecting a sense of excessive entitlement.
There's nothing wrong with digital art in newspapers. However, a paper must make it absolutely clear to the reader whenever they run an image that departs from the paper's policy on altering news photos. The exact rules matter less than simply writing out a policy and scrupulously informing readers when images fall outside those guidelines.
Neither the Times nor Martins has taken responsiblity for misleading the public. This kind of stunt undermines not only the credibility of the New York Times Magazine, but photojournalism in general.