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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Gaza burial? 2013 World Press Photo of the Year was 'enhanced'

The 2013 World Press photo of the year was 'enhanced' using Photoshop according to a computer expert who spotted the fraud a mile away.

The photo, dubbed Gaza Burial, was purportedly captured on November 20, 2012 by Paul Hansen. Hansen was in Gaza City when Israeli forces retaliated in response to rocket fire from Palestinian rocket fire. The photo shows two of the casualties of the Israeli attack, carried to their funeral by their uncles. Now, the event itself isn’t a fake — there are lots of other photos online that show the children being carried through the streets of Gaza — but the photo itself is almost certainly a composite of three different photos, with various regions spliced together from each of the images, and then further manipulation to illuminate the mourners’ faces.

This revelation comes from Neal Krawetz, a forensic image analyst. There were two main stages to the analysis: First an interrogation of the JPEG’s XMP block, which details the file’s Photoshop save history, and then pixel-level error level analysis (ELA). To begin with, the XMP data shows that the original, base image was converted from Raw format and opened in Photoshop on November 20, 2012 (the same date that it was taken). Then, on January 4, 2013, the XMP block shows that a second Raw image was opened and added to the original.

An hour later, a third image was spliced in. Finally, 30 minutes later the photo chimera was actually saved to disk. The January 4 date is interesting because it shows that the final photo was only edited a couple of weeks before the January 17 submission deadline, not soon after original photo was taken in Gaza — in other words, it was edited specifically for the contest.


Take a look at the man on the far left, carrying the child’s feet — his magically, digitally illuminated face is clearly shown on the ELA map. In fact, almost every face in the picture has been brightened, as have the children’s shrouds.
The final nail in the coffin is good ol’ shadow analysis. At the time the photo was taken — 10:40am, in the winter — the sun should be fairly low in the sky. The shadows on the left wall are consistent with a sun location (shown below) that should cast deep, dark shadows on the mourners’ right sides — but, as you can see, those magical light rays seem to be at work again.

Read the whole thing.

The only reason this photo was subject to such rigorous analysis was the fact that it won a major prize. One cannot help but wonder how many other images from the Israeli - 'Palestinian' conflict were similarly altered.

The technology for altering photos, and for detecting alterations, have both improved greatly since fauxtography first burst into the headlines seven years ago. Maybe this type of analysis is something that ought to be done regularly (and no, I'm not volunteering and don't know how to do it).

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