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The Hoax Photo Archive — Photo Fakery Throughout History
Category: Photojournalism
Dati’s Disappearing Ring. (Nov 19, 2008) Photo editors at Le Figaro deleted a ring from the French justice minister's hand in order to make her appear less glamorous. More…
The Fake General Dunwoody. (November 2008) When Ann Dunwoody became the first four-star general in the American military, the Army released a doctored photo of her to the media. More…
The Missile Launcher Vanishes. (July 9, 2008) The Iranian government pasted a missile into this photo, apparently in an attempt to conceal the failure of one of the missiles to launch. More…
Fox Airs Faux Photos. (July 2, 2008) Fox News aired pictures of New York Times staffers that had been digitally altered to make the men appear less attractive. More…
M.C. Escher Golf. (Taken Aug 18, 2006. Published June 2008) A surreal effect of impossible geometry may have been caused by the use of a telephoto lens to take this picture. More…
Sarkozy’s Disappearing Love Handles. (August 2007) Paris Match was accused of pandering to French President Nicolas Sarkozy when it reduced the size of his love handles in this photo of him canoeing with his son. More…
Katie Couric Slimmed Down. (September 2006) A digitally slimmed down version of Katie Couric appeared in CBS's Watch magazine. More…
Fake Smoke Over Beirut. (August 5, 2006) A freelance photographer heightened the drama of this image distributed by Reuters by adding additional smoke. More…
“Qinghai-Tibet railway opens green passage for wildlife”. (Published in 2006. Debunked in 2008.) This award-winning Chinese photo appeared to show the peaceful co-existence of antelope with a new high-speed train. Unfortunately the photo was a digital composite. More…
Islamic Hostage Action-Figure Hoax. (February 1, 2005) Hostage "John Adam," whose photo appeared on internet bulletin boards used by Iraqi rebels, turned out to be a Cody action-figure doll. More…
Trophy Turkey. (Thanksgiving 2003) This photo appears to show President Bush serving dinner to troops during a surprise visit to Iraq on Thanksgiving Day, 2003. The image was widely published and credited with helping the President's popularity rise in polls. But the image was later criticized for being misleadingly captioned, because newspapers failed to mention that Bush was holding a decorative centerpiece not intended for consumption. The troops were actually fed turkey from steam trays. More…
British Soldier in Basra. (Created March 29, 2003.) This digital composite slipped past the editors of the LA Times and ran on the paper's front page. More…
The Lackawanna Shooter. (Published Sep 20, 2002) A New York Times photographer was accused of staging this photo "like a fashion shoot." More…
O.J.‘s Darkened Mug Shot. (June 27, 1994) When Time magazine used a mug shot of O.J. Simpson on its June 27th cover (left), it darkened the photo and reduced the size of the prisoner ID number. However, Newsweek ran the same mug shot on its cover (right) that week, without altering it. The two covers appeared side-by-side on newsstands, making Time's decision to darken the photo far more visible. Critics charged Time with racism. More…
Fire on Ice. (Feb 16, 1994) Harding and Kerrigan were seen skating together on this Newsday cover, but the scene never occurred in real life. More…
The Disappearing Coke Can. (March 31, 1989) An editor digitally removed a Coke can from this front-page image because he felt it ruined the composition of the photo. More…
The Case of the Moving Pyramids. (February 1982) In what became the first high-profile example of digital photo manipulation, National Geographic moved the pyramids slightly closer together to fit within the frame of the cover. More…
Yeah Eckerd. (1981) The news photographer staged the scene by having a fan write the phrase "Yeah Eckerd" on the soles of his feet. More…
The Missing Pole. (May 4, 1970) This photo of a young woman screaming with grief over the body of a shot student at Kent State University is one of the most famous images of the 20th Century. But in the original version of the photo, a fence pole was positioned directly behind the head of the woman. Sometime an unknown photo editor airbrushed it out. More…
Dr. Schweitzer in the Congo. (1954) More than thirty years after its initial publication, this famous photo by W. Eugene Smith was discovered to be two photos composited together. More…
Red Army Flag Over Reichstag. (May 2, 1945) This photo was both staged and doctored in an attempt to create a Soviet version of the Americans' Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima image. More…
The Master Race. (May 8, 1943) The May 8, 1943 cover of the British illustrated magazine Parade showed an unkempt, dour-looking German soldier with the satirical caption, "Master Race." But the man wasn't actually a German soldier. The photo was actually a piece of British government propaganda. The photographer later admitted the man was "the ugliest Arab they could find in the streets of Cairo... whom they dressed up in a sort of uniform." More…
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax. (August 1942) The U.S. Army press office released pictures supposedly showing "secret markers" placed by fifth-columnists in rural areas of the east coast to guide Nazi bombers toward military targets. But it turned out the "markers" had been investigated by the Army, and had been judged to be entirely innocent patterns on the ground. The release of the photos and the claim of their sinister meaning was attributed to "over-zealous army press-agentry." More…
The Falling Soldier. (September 5, 1936) Despite allegations that Robert Capa staged this famous war photo, historical research shows that he did not. More…
The Perambulating Skull. (May 1936) Arthur Rothstein took this photo while documenting drought conditions in South Dakota for the Resettlement Administration. But Republican papers noticed that the same skull appeared in other photos by Rothstein and accused him of using it as a "movable prop" to dramatize the drought for political purposes. They mockingly referred to the cow's head as the "perambulating skull." More…
Mother Cat Stops Traffic. (July 29, 1925) The news photographer arrived too late to capture the original scene, so he convinced the policeman to recreate it. More…
Ocean Execution. (December 1913) The New York American ran this photo, claiming that the parents of the children had been killed by Mexican soldiers. It said, "The children were driven into the water, forced to hold their hands above their heads, and shot in the back." This was a case of false captioning. The picture was actually an innocent snapshot taken by a holidaygoer in British Honduras. The children had been playing in the waves and raised their arms in order to make a better picture. More…
A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep. (Taken in 1863. Exposed as a fake in 1961.) Civil War photographers used a corpse as a movable prop. More…
Interior of the Secundra Bagh. (March or April 1858) Human bones were disinterred and scattered around to recreate the aftermath of a battle. More…
The Valley of the Shadow of Death. (April 23, 1855) Roger Fenton took this photo while documenting the Crimean War for the British government. This image, considered a masterpiece of war photography, shows a simple, but haunting view of a cannonball-strewn road near Sevastopol. But in 1981 historian Mark Haworth-Booth determined that Fenton probably staged this scene, moving cannonballs from the ditch onto the road in order to create a more dramatic image. More…

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.