After the Russian Orthodox Church’s patriarch came under fire for being pictured wearing a wildly expensive watch, the church came up with a swift solution for the problem: Erase the timepiece from the photo.
But editors on the patriarch’s Web site forgot to erase the watch’s reflection on the table. The mini-scandal soon became a big one, with the Associated Press reporting today that the church was forced to apologize and restore the original photo on its site. Patriarch Kirill I, however, maintains he never wore the watch and says he believes the original photo was altered.
As people in positions of authority discover Photoshop technology, photo-doctoring mishaps are becoming increasingly common. Sometimes, as in the case of the patriarch, the photos are altered to prevent embarrassment. Other times, an image is changed to give a world leader extra swagger. Whatever the reason, it’s a lesson for news agencies to proceed with caution on outside photos. Five of the most high-profile recent Photoshop disasters, after the jump.
Philippines typhoon cleanup
Officials with the Philippines Department of Public Works and Highways were left red-faced last fall after it was discovered they had Photoshopped three officials into a typhoon cleanup photo.
In the cleanup photo, the three officials appeared to be assessing the damage of the typhoon, but one discerning blogger and civil engineer noticed that something didn’t seem quite right.
The department later took down the photo and issued an apology on its Facebook page.
Questions were raised last July about photos released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) showing President Bashar al-Assad swearing in Anas Abdul-Razzaq Naem, the new governor of Hama.
A Guardian photo expert first said that it appears two photos have been merged, and Post photographers agreed that the photo appeared to have “undergone some serious Photoshop work,” possibly by using Photoshop’s well-known lasso tool.
SANA did not respond to request for comment about the photo.
Mubarak leading Obama
Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper took heat in 2010 after running a doctored photo of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House, along with President Obama and other world leaders.
The Post’s Al Kamen reported that an Egyptian blogger discovered the paper had moved Mubarak in front of Obama, despite the fact that in the real photo, the Egyptian leader was trailing behind.
Al-Ahram defended the photo as “expressionist” because it represented Mubarak’s “leading” role on the Palestinian issue.
North Korea flooding
Last July, the Associated Press withdrew a photo showing flooding in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, saying it no longer stood by the photo. The image had been distributed by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), and was believed to have been altered to exaggerate the scale of the flooding and induce more international aid.
Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Situation Room
Hasidic newspaper Di Tzeitung in May apologized to the White House and State Department after removing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Audrey Tomason, a counterterrorism expert, out of the famous Osama bin Laden Situation Room photo.
Di Tzeitung told BlogPost in an e-mail that “in accord with our religious beliefs, we do not publish photos of women.”