About the Hoax Photo Database
The Hoax Photo Database catalogs examples of photo fakery, from the beginnings of photography up to the present. Included in the database are photos that are "real," but which have been suspected of being fake, as well as images whose veracity remains undetermined. The photos are displayed in chronological order (or reverse-chronological). They're categorized by theme, technique of fakery (if known), and time period. See below for the full list of categories.

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hoax photo database
Suicidal Teens Welcome
Status: Fake (composite)
Date: Found on the internet, early 2007
The sign in the window of the armed forces recruiting center (top) reads, "Suicidal Teens Welcome! Enlist Here!" The image is almost certainly fake. It would be a simple matter to paste the sign into the image, and then use Photoshop's opacity tool to blend the sign into the window, making it appear to be behind the glass.

Some have speculated that the hoaxer could have surreptitiously placed the sign in the window of the recruiting center and then quickly snapped the picture. This is possible but unlikely since it would be far easier to digitally alter the image then to stage the shot in real life.

The sign is a reference to an episode of The Simpsons (screenshot, bottom) in which a similar sign was shown in the window of an army recruiting center.
Technique: Composite Images. Time Period: 2005-Present.
Themes: Humor, Military, viral images,.
Giant Tomatoes
Status: Forced perspective
Date: Feb 2007
An image taken by Claro Cortes for Reuters shows a Chinese farmer tending organic tomatoes in a greenhouse near Beijing. Because of the position of the tomatoes in the foreground of the picture, they appear to be enormously large.
Technique: Forced Perspective. Time Period: .
Themes: Plants,.
Sarkozy’s Disappearing Love Handles
Status: Digitally altered
Date: August 2007
In its Aug 9, 2007 issue Paris Match published a photo (top) showing French President Nicolas Sarkozy canoeing with his son on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. The photo was taken by Reuters photographer Neal Hamberg while Sarkozy was vacationing in the U.S. The photo simultaneously appeared in other publications.

Paris Match's rival, L'Express, subsequently revealed that in the original version of the photo (bottom) Sarkozy had obvious "love handles." But Paris Match had digitally removed Sarkozy's fat bulge from the version it used. No other publication that ran the image had altered it in this way.

Paris Match claimed it had altered the picture only because Sarkozy's seated position in the boat exaggerated the size of his fat bulge. However, the magazine was criticized for pandering to the President. Paris Match, it was widely noted, was owned by a friend of Sarkozy's, the businessman Arnaud Lagardère.

Sarkozy's spokesman said the President had not requested the alteration.
"Magazine retouches Sarkozy photo." (Aug 22, 2007). BBC News.
'Love handle' affair underscores Sarkozy's close relations with French media. (Aug 23, 2007). International Herald Tribune.
"Paris Match Performs Virtual Liposuction On French President." (Aug 23, 2007). Photo District News.
Paper Tiger
Status: Fake (staged with paper cut-out)
Date: October 3, 2007
Zhou Zhenglong, a farmer in Shaanxi Province, China, came forward with a picture of a rare South China tiger, a creature not seen in the wild since 1964 and that many feared to be extinct. Zhou said he had taken the photo (top) on October 3, 2007 and that he had "risked his life" to do so. Forestry officials published the photo, paid him a reward of 20,000 yuan, and began an intensive search for the animal.

However, the photo quickly generated suspicion, especially online. Police were able to identify the trees in Zhou's photo, and by extrapolating from this information concluded that Zhou's tiger, if real, measured less than a foot in length. The forestry officials were criticized for promoting the dubious photo, apparently in the hope that proof of the tiger's existence would attract tourism to the region.

Eventually the police determined that Zhou had created the photo using a picture of the South China tiger he had found in an old calendar (bottom). He simply cut the picture out of the calendar, attached it to a wooden backing, placed it between the trees, and snapped its photo. He had hoped to receive a sizable reward (much larger than the one he got) for proving the existence of the tiger.

In June 2008 thirteen officials were fired for their involvement in the fraud. Zhou was arrested on suspicion of fraud.
Provincial authorities: China tiger photos fabricated. (June 29, 2008). Xinhuanet.com.
Farmer's photo of rare South China tiger is exposed as fake. (June 30, 2008). The Times Online.
Technique: Staged Scene, Models and Cutouts. Time Period: 2005-Present.
Themes: Animals, Cats, Cryptozoology,.
Vote for Dean Hrbacek
Status: Fake (composite)
Date: January 2008
The campaign office of congressional candidate Dean Hrbacek mailed voters a brochure showing the candidate posed in a suit. It was later discovered that the body in the photo did not belong to Hrbacek. His head had been digitally pasted onto the body of a significantly slimmer man.

Hrbacek’s campaign office defended the fake photo by claiming that Hrbacek did not have time to pose for a real picture since he had been so busy meeting voters in the 22nd Congressional District. Republican political consultant Allen Blakemore noted it was relatively rare for candidate’s to create doctored photos of themselves since “it can question the veracity of other things you are trying to get across.”
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Barack Obama Smoking
Status: Fake (composite)
Date: Circulating online since early 2008
Barack Obama has admitted to being a smoker, though before he launched his presidential campaign he resolved to quit the habit. (By his own admission, he has had a few lapses.) Nevertheless, there are hardly any photos of him smoking, largely because his campaign makes great efforts to stop such photos getting out, fearing negative public reaction.

In early 2008 the top photo began circulating online, showing Obama with a cigarette in his mouth. It is not real. The original photo (bottom) was taken by Kwame Ross on Aug. 3, 2004 while then-State Sen. Obama met with constituents at the University of Illinois while campaigning to become a U.S. Senator.

An unknown hoaxer digitally added the cigarette into the photo.
Campus Visit. News Bureau, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Technique: Composite Images. Time Period: 2005-Present.
Themes: Politics, viral images,.
Charlton Heston’s Home Gun Collection
Status: Real pictures, false caption
Date: Apr 2008
After the actor Charlton Heston died in April 2008, a series of images began to circulate online, accompanied by the claim that they showed the actor's home gun collection, housed beneath his 1860s Manor House.

Heston, as president of the National Rifle Association for many years, was a well-known gun enthusiast. But the guns in the photos didn't belong to him. Nor was the manor house his home. The collection actually belonged to attorney Bruce Stern, who died in 2007.

After Stern's death, the collection was mostly auctioned off. It was one of the largest firearms collections ever to go up for auction.

Bruce Stern. Wikipedia.
Technique: False Captions. Time Period: 2005-Present.
Themes: Celebrities, Military, Weapons, viral images,.
“Not What You Want To See”
Status: Fake (composite and false caption)
Date: Circulating online since early 2008
The top photo, showing a flash of lightning that reveals a waterspout approaching an oil rig, has circulated online since early 2008. It is usually accompanied by the caption, "When the lightning flashes, this is not what you want to see." The image is not real. It is a composite of two photographs.

Amateur photographer Fred Smith photographed the waterspout and lightning on June 15, 1991 from his backyard overlooking Lake Okeechobee, Florida. He was taking pictures of a lightning storm when he got lucky and snapped a shot (bottom) of a waterspout illuminated by a flash of lightning. The photo subsequently appeared on a calendar, and in 2001 it became available for purchase online. Soon after it began circulating via email -- usually with incorrect captions that described it as a photograph of whatever tornado had most recently been in the news.

In early 2008 an unknown hoaxer pasted an oil rig into the picture and added the "not what you want to see" caption. This version has been circulating ever since.
Hand with no thumb
Status: Fake (composite)
Date: Found on the internet, June 2008
A caption frequently accompanies this image claiming it's "not photoshopped or edited" and that it accurately shows a person whose hand has "no THUMB at all!" However, the picture appears to have been edited. The person's thumb has been digitally erased and replaced by the two fingers on the right. This is revealed by the awkward joint between the second and third fingers (from the right).

The medical term for having extra fingers is Polydactyly. It is a real condition. However, polydactyls usually have the extra digit next to their little finger. It is very rare for a polydactyl to not have a thumb.
Technique: Composite Images. Time Period: 2005-Present.
Themes: Strange Body Parts,.
Fox Airs Faux Photos
Status: Fake (digitally doctored)
Date: July 2, 2008
On the morning of Wednesday July 2, 2008 the Fox & Friends show on the conservative Fox News channel aired photos of New York Times staffers Jacques Steinberg and Steven Reddicliffe. The photos had been altered to make the men look less attractive. Their teeth were yellowed, ears enlarged, dark circles placed beneath their eyes, etc. The intent was evidently satirical. Bill O'Reilly of Fox News later admitted Fox News was making fun of the men. However, viewers were not informed of the alterations. The New York Times said the doctored photos were "beneath comment."

The top row shows the photos aired by Fox. The bottom row shows the original photos. (Steinberg on the left, Reddicliffe on the right.)
Technique: . Time Period: 2005-Present.
Themes: Digital Plastic Surgery, Photojournalism,.
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