"The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political... And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show him, every day, that there can be no change. " WIM WENDERS
Monday, 9 May 2016
Botched Steve McCurry Print Leads to Photoshop Scandal
Steve McCurry is, perhaps, one of the most iconic names in the National Geographic pantheon. A travel photography giant, his vibrant images have inspired millions, but he’s recently come under fire over Photoshop use after a botched print at a show in Italy was found to have a serious issue.
The print in question was spotted first by photographer Paolo Viglione, who went to the show in Italy and posted about what he saw on his blog. His intent was not to start a full-scale witch hunt, but in many ways that’s what happened when he posted the picture below showing a closeup of the botched street photograph from Cuba:
Viglione says he, “had no intention to attack [Steve McCurry],” he simply wanted to show something “‘strange’, even a little ‘fun'” that he had seen. He even removed the post after it took off, but the damage was done.
The two versions of an image below were found on Mr. McCurry’s website itself (the photos are linked to their sources), and our anonymous tipster told us the shot has been removed from the Magnum website. Notice the missing player in the second image:
And an astute Facebook user found another two images that allegedly show cloning at work. Two people, two carts, and a light pole seem to have been removed:
After receiving all of these links through various reader tips and parsing through the variousItalianarticles that have gone up online, we decided the only way to be sure we got the whole story was to reach out to Mr. McCurry himself.
After a polite back and forth with his team (Mr. McCurry is currently traveling), we received the following statement from McCurry himself. We’re reprinting it in full below:
My career started almost forty years ago when I left home to travel and photograph throughout South Asia. I went into Afghanistan with a group of Mujahideen in 1979, and thus became a photojournalist when news magazines and newspapers picked up my pictures, published them around the world, and gave me assignments to provide more images of the war.
Later on, I covered other wars and civil conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere, and produced photo essays for magazines, but like other artists, my career has gone through many stages.
Today I would define my work as visual storytelling, because the pictures have been shot in many places, for many reasons, and in many situations. Much of my recent work has been shot for my own enjoyment in places I wanted to visit to satisfy my curiosity about the people and the culture. For example, my Cuba work was taken during four personal trips.
My photography is my art, and it’s gratifying when people enjoy and appreciate it. I have been fortunate to be able to share my work with people around the world.
I try to be as involved as much as I can in reviewing and supervising the printing of my work, but many times the prints are printed and shipped when I am away. That is what happened in this case. It goes without saying that what happened with this image was a mistake for which I have to take responsibility.
I have taken steps to change procedures at my studio which will prevent something like this from happening again.
The statement tracks with much of what we read in two Italianinterviews with Mr. McCurry about the incident. He said the issue in the Cuba image was, “a change that I would have never authorized,” and “the lab technician who made the mistake does not work with me anymore.”
What we haven’t yet hear back about are the other photographs above. Mr. McCurry mentions in the same interview that using contrast and tones adjustments to alter a section of a photo that is distracting is okay, but that the change shouldn’t be done by “moving elements.” He does allow himself much more leeway when shooting personal projects like the Cuba images (as opposed to some of the photojournalistic work he was known for early on), but it seems the major changes shown above would also qualify as things he would “never authorize.”
We’ve followed up with Mr. McCurry’s team and are still waiting to hear back about the second and third sets of images above. We will update this post as soon as we have an official response.
I am not at all surprised at the digital manipulation to create the perfect frame.
I met the man decades ago and even then he was manipulating his pictures.
I have watched him rig his pictures when he was shooting chrome film.
Back then he rigged what was in front of him. Arranged the subject. because chromes could not be that easily manipualted.
This famous cover picture of his National Geographic story on the Railways was a special case that I remember. Heactually had to re shoot it and got the railways to take the engine back ,again, because the first shoot was not sharp enough
For a shot of the the kitchen in " The Great Indian Rover ' he actually had the railing around the work bench removed . I know because I was there.
The last time I saw him he was arranging a picture in Delhi's Lodi Garden directing a 'waiter ' where to stand.
He does that . a lot.
This apparently off the cuff moment was arranged too. The lady is the wife of a photographer friend and the suitcases the coolie is carrying are empty. They had to be because the shot took time and lots of patient posing .
Mc Curry's pictures have been called STAGED CANDID MOMENTS by Avinash Pasricha , a photographer friend who knows how he works because he helped him with the pictures like the one above. The lady is his sister in law.
Many Photographers arrange and rig their pictures . Too many , probably.
I find that more than a let down because they pretend otherwise.
Personally speaking I think that by being ' illustrators ' of editorial content they miss out on the magic of seeing and the joy of being in a Zen moment of life allowed to happen. A life discovered. A life not lived within the prison of your mind - the limits of it's imagination.