2011 was a year of double takes in photo fakery: Did those models really strike exactly the same pose? Are Taylor Swift’s eyelashes really that long? Did President Obama actually lock lips with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? No, no, and no (the answer should be obvious for that last one, but it fooled a few people nevertheless). This year, digitally altered images made headlines in fashion and world politics.
Previously: The year in Christmas controversy.
Obama kisses Chavez: Benetton’s “Unhate” campaign inspired a great deal of the opposite: altered images of world leaders including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas kissing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Obama kissing Chinese president Hu Jintao inspired vitriol from readers and a lawsuit from the Vatican, for one image of the Pope kissing an imam. The Photoshopping on the ads was so perfectly executed that it fooled readers, who wrote in asking whether the images depicted an actual event.
Philippines officials edit typhoon cleanup images: September’s Typhoon Nesat left a lot of destruction in its wake: 31 deaths, $23 million in damage and the reputation of the Philippines Department of Public Works and Highways. Three officials from the department were Photoshopped into a typhoon cleanup image, which came to light after a blogger noticed that they seemed to be hovering in mid-air. The department issued an apology, but not before they became a meme and were Photoshopped into other scenes of disaster.
Pepper-spray cop travels through time, art history: When Lt. John Pike pepper-sprayed passive protesters at U.C. Davis, the image of him strolling down a line of students became one of the defining photos of the Occupy movement. It was easy to predict what came next: A meme featuring the pepper-spray cop in other moments of languid passivity throughout history and art. The images went viral and became one of the top memes of the year.
Taylor Swift displays suspiciously long eyelashes: The singer surely made her famous surprised face when a complaint from the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus resulted in CoverGirl pulling her ad for NatureLuxe Mousse mascara. Swift’s eyelashes were enhanced in post-production so much that the ad became misleading, the watchdog group said. CoverGirl also discontinued its claim that the product made users’ lashes two times fuller than bare lashes and was 20 percent lighter than other mascara.
Trains pass with suspiciously good timing: The Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, ran a perfect photo to illustrate transportation’s past and present: a brand new commuter train passing over a steam locomotive near the town. It was too perfect, though: The trains passed within minutes of each other, but not simultaneously, as the photo depicted. The paper was forced to run an embarrassing correction citing the photographer’s “naive misunderstanding.”
H&M models display suspiciously identical bodies: No, H&M models aren’t so skilled that one model can replicate another’s pose within a millimeter. That’s the work of their computer-generated models, which the company defended as “virtual mannequins” and a cost-saving measure. Eating-disorder advocates attacked the company for promoting a body so unrealistic that it could not exist in real life, while models saw virtual mannequins as a threat to their jobs.