Photo tampering history

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Photo Tampering Throughout History

Photography lost its innocence many years ago. In as early as the 1860s, photographs were already being manipulated, only a few decades after Niepce created the first photograph in 1814. With the advent of high-resolution digital cameras, powerful personal computers and sophisticated photo-editing software, the manipulation of digital images is becoming more common. Here, I have collected some examples of tampering throughout history.

To help contend with the implications of this tampering, we have developed a series of tools for detecting traces of tampering in digital images (contact me at Ma'at Consulting for more information about our services).

circa 1860: This nearly iconic portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is a composite of Lincoln's head and the Southern politician John Calhoun's body. Putting the date of this image into context, note that the first permanent photographic image was created in 1826 and the Eastman Dry Plate Company (later to become Eastman Kodak) was created in 1881.

circa 1864: This print purports to be of General Ulysses S. Grant in front of his troops at City Point, Virginia, during the American Civil War. Some very nice detective work by researchers at the Library of Congress revealed that this print is a composite of three separate prints: (1) the head in this photo is taken from a portrait of Grant; (2) the horse and body are those of Major General Alexander M. McCook; and (3) the backgoround is of Confederate prisoners captured at the battle of Fisher's Hill, VA.

Source: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

circa 1865: In this photo by famed photographer Mathew Brady, General Sherman is seen posing with his Generals. General Francis P. Blair (far right) was added to the original photograph.

circa 1930: Stalin routinely air-brushed his enemies out of photographs. In this photograph a commissar was removed from the original photograph after falling out of favor with Stalin.

1936: In this doctored photograph, Mao Tse-tung (right) had Po Ku (left) removed from the original photograph, after Po Ku fell out of favor with Mao.

1937: In this doctored photograph, Adolf Hitler had Joseph Goebbels (second from the right) removed from the original photograph. It remains unclear why exactly Goebbels fell out of favor with Hitler.

1939: In this doctored photo of Queen Elizabeth and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King in Banff, Alberta, King George VI was removed from the original photograph. This photo was used on an election poster for the Prime Minister. It is hypothesized that the Prime Minister had the photo altered because a photo of just him and the Queen painted him in a more powerful light.

1942: In order to create a more heroic portrait of himself, Benito Mussolini had the horse handler removed from the original photograph.

1950: It is believed that this doctored photograph contributed to Senator Millard Tydings' electoral defeat in 1950. The photo of Tydings (right) conversing with Earl Browder (left), a leader of the American Communist party, was meant to suggest that Tydings had communist sympathies.

1960: In 1960 the U.S. Olympic hockey team defeated the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia to win its first Olympic gold medal in hockey. The official team photo was doctored to include the faces of Bill Cleary (front row, third from the left), Bob Cleary (middle row, far left) and John Mayasich (top row, far left), who were not present for the team photo. These players were superimposed onto the bodies of players Bob Dupuis, Larry Alm and Herb Brooks, respectively.

1968: When in the summer of 1968 Fidel Castro (right) approves of the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia, Carlos Franqui (middle) cuts off relations with the regime and goes into exile in Italy. His image was removed from photographs. Franqui wrote about his feeling of being erased:

I discover my photographic death.

Do I exist?

I am a little black,

I am a little white,

I am a little shit,

On Fidel's vest.

May 1970: This Pulitzer Prize winning photo by John Filo shows Mary Ann Vecchio screaming as she kneels over the body of student Jeffrey Miller at Kent State University, where National Guardsmen had fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine. When this photo was published in LIFE Magazine, the fence post directly behind Vecchio was removed.

September 1971: The German Chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt (far left), meets with Leonid Brezhnev (far right), First Secretary of the Communist Party. The two smoke and drink, and it is reported that the atmosphere is cordial and that they are drunk. The German press publishes a photograph that shows the champagne bottles on the table. The Soviet press, however, removed the bottles from the original photograph.

September 1976: The so called "Gang of Four" were removed from this original photograph of a memorial ceremony for Mao Tse-Tung held at Tiananmen Square.

February 1982: In this National Geographic magazine cover story on Egypt by Gorden Gahen, the Great Pyramid of Giza was digitally moved to fit the magazine's vertical format. Tom Kennedy, who became the director of photography at National Geographic after the cover was manipulated, stated that "We no longer use that technology to manipulate elements in a photo simply to achieve a more compelling graphic effect. We regarded that afterwards as a mistake, and we wouldn't repeat that mistake today".

August 1989: The cover of TV Guide displayed this picture of daytime talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. This picture was created by splicing the head of Winfrey onto the body of actress Ann-Margret, taken from a 1979 publicity shot. The composite was created without permission of Winfrey or Ann-Margret, and was detected by Ann-Margret's fashion designer, who recognized the dress.

July 1992: This cover of TexasMonthly shows the then Texas Governor Ann Richards astride a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle. This picture was created by splicing the head of Richards onto the body of a model. The editors explained that their credit page disclosed this fact by noting in the credits page "Cover Photograph by Jim Myers ... Stock photograph (head shot) By Kevin Vandivier / Texastock". After the motorcycle cover appeared, Richards said that since the model had such a nice body, she could hardly complain.

February 1994: This digital composite of Olympic ice skaters Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan appeared on the cover of New York Newsday. The picture showed the rivals practicing together, shortly after an attack on Kerrigan by an associate of Harding's husband. The picture caption reads: "Tonya Harding, left, and Nancy Kerrigan, appear to skate together in this New York Newsday composite illustration. Tomorrow, they'll really take to the ice together."

June 1994: This digitally altered photograph of OJ Simpson appeared on the cover of Time magazine shortly after Simpson's arrest for murder. This photograph was manipulated from the original mug-shot that appeared, unaltered, on the cover of Newsweek. Time magazine was subsequently accused of manipulating the photograph to make Simpson appear "darker" and "menacing".

November 1997: After 58 tourists were killed in a terrorist attack at the temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor Egypt, the Swiss tabloid Blick digitally altered a puddle of water to appear as blood flowing from the temple.

December 1997: This digitally altered photograph of Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine shortly after Bobbi gave birth to septuplets. This photograph was manipulated from the original that appeared, unaltered, on the cover of Time magazine. Newsweek manipulated the photograph to make Bobbi's teeth straighter, and were accused of trying to make her "more attractive".

December 2000: The CBS emblem in this single frame of a live video broadcast, was digitally inserted during the new year's eve broadcast so as to conceal the NBC emblem that was on display in the background. The technology used in this case, is the same as that widely employed during the broadcast of sporting events to display advertisements on billboards.

September 2000: Hoping to illustrate its diverse enrollment, the University of Wisconsin at Madison doctored a photograph on a brochure cover by digitally inserting a black student in a crowd of white football fans. The original photograph of white fans was taken in 1993. The additional black student, senior Diallo Shabazz, was taken in 1994. University officials said that they spent the summer looking for pictures that would show the school's diversity -- but had no luck.

April 2002: The 1996 Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) extended the existing federal criminal laws against child pornography to include certain types of "virtual porn". In 2002, hearing Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, the United States Supreme Court found that portions of the CPPA, being overly broad and restrictive, violated First Amendment rights. The Court ruled that images containing an actual minor or portions of a minor are not protected, while computer-generated images depicting a fictitious minor are constitutionally protected.

January 2003: This cover of GQ magazine featured a digitally slimmed actress Kate Winslet. Winslet said that the retouching was "excessive." "I don't look like that and more importantly I don't desire to look like that. I can tell you that they've reduced the size of my legs by about a third", said Winslet.

January 2003: The original copy of the Beatles Abbey Road album cover shows Paul McCartney, third in line, holding a cigarette. United States poster companies have airbrushed this image to remove the cigarette from McCartney's hand. This change was made without the permission of either McCartney or Apple Records, which owns the rights to the image. "We have never agreed to anything like this," said an Apple spokesman. "It seems these poster companies got a little carried away. They shouldn't have done what they have, but there isn't much we can do about it now."

July 2003: This Redbook cover of actress Julia Roberts is a composite of Roberts' head taken at the 2002 People's Choice award, and her body taken at the Notting Hill movie premiere several years earlier. Publisher Hearst admits its mistake: "In an effort to make a cover that would pop on the newsstand, we combined two different shots of Julia Roberts. We acknowledge that we may have gone too far and hope that Ms. Roberts will accept our apology."

April 2003: This digital composite of a British soldier in Basra, gesturing to Iraqi civilians urging them to seek cover, appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times shortly after the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. Brian Walski, a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times and a 30-year veteran of the news business, was fired after his editors discovered that he had combined two of his photographs to "improve" the composition.

February 2004: This digital composite of Senator John Kerry and Jane Fonda sharing a stage at an anti-war rally emerged during the 2004 Presidential primaries as Senator Kerry was campaigning for the Democratic nomination. The picture of Senator Kerry was captured by photographer Ken Light as Kerry was preparing to give a speech at the Register for Peace Rally held in Mineola, New York, in June 1971. The picture of Jane Fonda was captured by Owen Franken as Fonda was speaking at a political rally in Miami Beach, Florida, in August 1972.

March 2004: This political ad for George W. Bush, as he was running for President, shows a sea of soldiers as a back drop to a child holding a flag. This image was digitally doctored by copying and pasting, from this original photograph, several soldiers to digitally remove Bush from a podium. After acknowledging that the photo had been doctored, the Bush campaign said that the ad would be re-edited and re-shipped to TV stations.

April 2004: This image, which was widely circulated on the Internet, shows a U.S. Marine posing for a photo with two Iraqi children while holding a sign reading "Lcpl Boudreauk killed my Dad then he knocked up my sister". Boudreauk claims that this image was tampered with from the original, in which the sign read "Welcome Marines". A military investigation into potential wrong-doing was inconclusive. It remains unclear if this image is authentic.

March 2005: This digital composite of Martha Stewart's head on a model's body appeared on the cover of Newsweek as Stewart was emerging from prison "thinner, wealthier and ready for prime time", as the headline reads. Newsweek disclosed the source of the cover image on Page 3 with the lines: "Cover: Photo illustration by Michael Elins ... head shot by Marc Bryan-Brown."

March 2005: This Harper's cover, taken at Parris Island, S.C., shows seven Marines lined up in their T-shirts, shorts and socks. The picture accompanied a story about soldiers that go AWOL (absent without leave). The soldiers depicted in the picture, however, were not AWOL. The picture was supplied by Getty Images as a stock photograph. "We are decorating pages," said Giulia Melucci, the magazine's vice president for public relations. "We are not saying the soldiers are AWOL. Our covers are not necessarily representative."

April 2005: An article in the journal Nature reports on the impact of digital photography and image-manipulation software in science. For example, Mike Rossner, editor of the Journal of Cell Biology, estimates that roughly 20% of accepted manuscripts to his journal contain at least one figure that has to be remade because of inappropriate image manipulation. And, in 1990, 2.5% of allegations examined by the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which monitors scientific misconduct, involved contested scientific images. By 2001, this figure was nearly 26%.

April 2005: In this doctored photograph, British politicians Ed Matts, conservative candidate for Dorset South, and Ann Widdecombe, conservative candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, are shown holding a pair of signs that together read "controlled immigration -- not chaos and inhumanity". This picture appeared as part of Matts' election literature. The original photograph, however, shows the same two candidates campaigning for a Malawian family of asylum seekers to be allowed to stay in Britain. Widdecombe said she was "happy to be associated with either message".

April 2005: This digital composite of actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, rumored to have a romantic relationship, appeared on the cover of Star Magazine. The picture of Pitt was taken in Anguilla, a Caribbean island, in January 2005. The picture of Jolie was taken in Virginia some time in 2004. On page 8 is a disclaimer noting the image is a "composite of two photographs."

June 2005: This picture from the Harvard College viewbook features a doctored version of the Harvard's newspaper March 9, 2005 front page. The headline in the original front page, reading "Summers To Face No Confidence Vote", was replaced with an illegible block of text. A Harvard spokesman confirmed that someone involved with the production of the viewbook had decided to remove the headline -- "It's a mistake, and it should not have happened", he said.

July 2005: This digital composite appeared on a campaign flyer for New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Virginia Fields. The picture shows Fields standing with a diverse group of people. Fields' chief campaign consultant, Joe Mercurio, admitted the picture was a composite of four separate photos. The picture, according to Mercurio, was meant to show that she has broad support and was not intended to deceive anyone.

August 2005: Florida Congresswoman Katherine Harris, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat next year, has accused some newspapers of doctoring photos to distort her makeup as a way to poke fun at her. Harris became famous when she oversaw the Florida recount in the 2000 presidential election, that gave George W. Bush a 537-vote victory in Florida. "I'm actually very sensitive about those things, and it's personally painful," she said. "But they're outrageously false. ... Whenever they made fun of my makeup, it was because the newspapers colorized my photograph." Harris and her staff have not, however, been able to cite a specific example of an altered photo. The photo of Harris, shown here, is not known to have been doctored.

August 2005: A magistrate in Sydney, Australia threw out a speeding case after the police said it had no evidence that an image from an automatic speed camera had not been doctored. This case revolved around the integrity of MD5, a digital signature algorithm, intended to prove that pictures have not been doctored after their recording. It is believed that this ruling may allow any driver caught by a speed camera to mount the same defense.
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