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World Press Photo of the Year 2013 might be fake

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World Press Photo of the Year 2013 might be fake

A forensic image analyst has come forth with evidence which suggests that Paul Hansen has altered the “Gaza Burial” photograph, which has granted the photographer the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year award.

There is an on-going battle among photographers. Some of them believe that images should not be modified using editing tools, others think that it is alright to make a few adjustments, while many feel that there is no problem in significantly changing a photo.

Well, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and the rules of most photo contests, including those of the biggest ones, imply that it is okay to adjust some parameters of the image, but not to add and remove objects or to perform considerable changes to a photograph.

Gaza Burial Paul Hansen
Gaza Burial. This photo depicts the funeral of two children and their father’s. They have been killed by an air strike from the Israeli military. Some people claim that the photo has been edited and that the photographer should have never won the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year award. Credits: Paul Hansen.

World Press Photo of the Year 2013 winner, Paul Hansen, accused of altering the victorious photograph

The latest controversy concerns one of the biggest photo contests in the world. It involves the World Press Photo of the Year, which comprises images from prestigious photographers and publications.

The 2013 edition has been won by Paul Hansen, a photographer who has been granted numerous awards and who takes pictures for Dagens Nyheter, a popular Swedish daily newspaper.

He named his photo “Gaza Burial”, as it depicts the funeral of a couple of children and their father’s. All of them had been killed by an Israeli air strike, which has severely injured other members of their family.

Photographer “forgot” to bring the original RAW file at the awards ceremony

The image brought a tear to most people’s eyes and it was enough to convince the judges to give the prestigious award to Paul Hansen. However, plenty of photographers and image analysts have deemed the photo as being fake.

Speaking at the World Press Photo 2013 awards conference in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Hansen said that he has been blessed with a “magical light”, which rarely happens, even to people who take photos daily.

The contest rules say that he has to provide the original RAW file of the photo, so that the judges can determine whether the photo has been significantly altered or not. The photographer said that he had intended to bring it, but he had forgotten all about it.

Forensic image analyst, Neal Krawetz, reveals that the image has been converted three times using Photoshop CS6

This is where forensic image analyst, Neal Krawetz, enters the fray. He says that one of his friends pointed to an article debating this subject, therefore he has decided to investigate. The results were surprising to say the least.

Krawetz looked for the highest-resolution file that he could find on the internet. He finally found the best one, which also came packed with the highest amount of metadata.

The Gaza Burial photo has been captured on November 20, 2012 at about 10AM (local time) using a Canon 5D Mark III. Moreover, the metadata has revealed that the image has been altered with the help of Photoshop CS6 for Mac OS X.

Additionally, the metadata has shown that the photo has been converted three times, which means that the image may be a composite of three photos.  This information is found in the XMP block of the JPEG file, which is automatically included by Adobe Photoshop in the resulting file.

The last edit of the file occurred on January 4, almost a couple of weeks before the ending of the World Press Photo 2013 contest submissions. This fact suggests that the photographer has edited the image especially for this competition.

Gaza Burial light shadows
The light and shadows in the Gaza Burial photo show that the photo has been taken when the sun was up in the sky, while the metadata says that it has been captured in the morning.

Light and shadows are not in concordance with the time and date of the photo

Krawetz added that the light is all wrong. Since it has been taken at 10AM, the sun should have been relatively low in the sky, but the shadows suggested that the sun was really high in the sky.

However, it is worth noting that the image analyst has never said that he has been at the exact location to check the sun’s position in late November, but other photos taken by other photographers look entirely different than Hansen’s winning image.

This means that Paul might have taken multiple shots and then has decided to combine them, in order to get the perfect look.

Pixel error level analysis Gaza Burial
Pixel error level analysis of the Gaza Burial photo by Neal Krawetz. “Good” parts are shown in red and blue, while “bad” parts display bright white dots.

Error level analysis shows that the photo has been significantly modified

The image analyst has also taken a look at the error level analysis (ELA). This is useful for checking the pixels’ error level. Areas who are “original” should have a lot of blue and red hues, while the edited ones display bright white areas.

According to the image ELA and Neal Krawetz, almost all faces in the photo have been modified, as well as the walls on the left. In Neal’s opinion, the 2013 World Press Photo Award has been given for a “digital composite” instead of a genuine photograph.

The judges and the photographer have not commented on the allegations. However, the controversy is here and it is very real, bringing a dark spot on the credibility of this prestigious contest.

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World Press Photo of the Year 2013 might be fake