If you judge, investigate

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From: Jain Lemos
Sent: Wednesday, July 08, 2009 11:24 AM
To: Edgar Martins
Subject: Edgar, are you releasing a statement re NYT images?

Hi Edgar,

Well, it’s a super long shot, but I thought perhaps you might respond to me on the record about what happened with the NYT Magazine pulling your images of the abandoned construction projects after questions were raised about possible manipulation.

Maybe I feel a connection to you because I am Portuguese-American. My grandfather was born in Flores. A little story about his unusual journey to America is here on my blog: Chase your DNA.

But also I felt compelled to write because I don’t think we have heard your side of the story. I’ve been working in photography for many years and, of course, respect Kathy Ryan’s integrity. I am interested to know what really happened so I can tell your side of the story via my blog. It is hard for me to believe that you represented your work when submitted for the story as not being digitally altered if it was. But, perhaps if you didn’t tell and you made a mistake, maybe you will explain that to us so this does not become a negative for all of your fine work, past and future!

Thank you for your time if you have read this. I hope you realize I am here to help you if I can and am not looking for anything in return.

~ Jain


From: Edgar Martins
Sent: Thursday, July 09, 2009 7:55 AM
To: Jain Lemos
Subject: Response

Hi Jain,


However, I will not be able to do share my views with you for a few more days.

I have been informed of the discussion that is currently taking place concerning the feature, which I had anticipated to some degree, but which I have not yet been able to acquaitance myself with it, as I am travelling and so unable to access the internet. (Yes, believe it or not there are still places in this world with limited or no internet connection..)

I will no doubt be discussing this issue you with yourself, your readers and readers from other blogs fairly soon.

In the meantime let the debate rage on… no doubt this will open up a healthy dialogue about Photography, its inexorable links to the real & its inadequacies. Or so I hope…

Warm regards,

Edgar Martins


Update July 10: I investigated, and here is my judgment.


  1. (via email)

    Hey Jain,

    I read your post today about the New York Times Magazine removing the photos from its slideshow because they had been digitally altered. I got a chance to interview the guy who exposed the photos for being altered and then alerted the newspaper of the fakery:

    Anyway, I thought this was something you and your readers would find interesting.

    Take care,

  2. Hi, you might like to check out this thread at the site (where Martins’s fakery was first discovered). If you read down through the thread (and also the “metatalk” thread that is linked from that thread) you’ll find that the posters there (including myself) have discovered multiple–indeed pervasive–examples of photoshopping throughout Martins’s entire career. Indeed, it would be fair to say that after reading that thread you’ll find yourself starting from the assumption that every single one of Martins’s photographs is digitally manipulated. As you know, if you are a fan of his, he has maintained throughout his career that he refuses to do any post production manipulation, either in the darkroom or digitally.

  3. Hi Jain–ah, I see that you did (sorry, didn’t mouse over the relevant link before I wrote). However if you’ve been through that thread, you’ll know that there’s really no question whatsoever about Edgar Martins’s willingness to misrepresent his work. It beggars belief that he would finally have “come clean” about his use of Photoshop to the NYTimes when he has repeatedly and blatantly lied about his practice throughout his entire career.

    And, in fact, even if he never explicitly said to the NYTimes “these images have not been digitally altered” that would hardly lessen the gravity of the situation. A) it is already the explicit policy of the NYTimes not to accept digitally altered images for journalistic photoessays (he can hardly claim to have thought that he was producing illustrations, can he?) and B) one still has the long record of his outright lies about his entire body of previous work.

  4. Interesting debate. I am familiar with Edgar Martins’ work, but not with Metafilter. Does the blog have certain, falsifiable, and direct proof that this is taking place? If so, it would be disappointing to say the least. If not, it might be best to hold judgment before all the facts are in. However, if it is the case that Martins has been profiting off work that claims to be unadulterated and authentic, but is in fact manipulated, then that is rather fraudulent towards those who have purchased his prints thinking they were more special than they actually were. Whatever the case, his photos are still very intriguing. But whether he has an eye for the symmetries of reality or whether he merely profits off the deception that he does is a question that he needs to answer. Thanks for the info, Jain.

  5. Hi Dave. Metafilter is a general-discussion link-aggregator site that puts a high premium on intelligent and informed discussion. It’s not a specialist photography site. If you follow Jain’s link to the original Metafilter thread on this subject you’ll find considerable “certain, falsifiable, and direct” proof of Martins’s extensive use of digital processing. Indeed, you’ll find yourself saying “how on earth was this not obvious to everyone”?

    Here are some examples:
    This one pretty much speaks for itself–he’s done a certain amount of clone-tool work to disrupt the symmetry, but as soon as you realize what to look for it’s obvious (look, particularly, at the converging, mirrored tire-tracks).

    This one is almost laughably self-evident. You can see that the lowest branch on the right is just the next-to-lowest branch on the left flipped and stuck on (notice the perfect symmetry of all the interior branches, the perfect symmetry of the curb). He’s digitally altered the leaves, however, to break up the symmetry a little).

    Here’s one that’s rather more subtle–but it’s very subtleness suggests just how pervasive his practice is. Look closely at the four large stones underwater in the lower left of the image. There are only two ‘originals’ there–he’s doubled both of those stones (notice, particularly, that you get exactly the same slight reflection/ripple in the water above the two on the right). The more I look at this photo, in fact, the more I suspect tat the “fire” in its fake and that much of the greenery is fake as well, but I can’t prove any of that. Two minutes in photoshop would prove the cloning of those stones, however.)

    The two Metafilter threads will give you links to plenty more examples.

  6. Dave: Yes, Metafilter presents overwhelming evidence of pervasive photoshoppery. Take a look through the thread. It’s pretty damning.

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