Tuesday, February 19, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame

This picture shot photographer Liu Weiqiang to fame two years ago when it was chosen as one of the top 10 most impressive news photos of 2006 by CCTV.

He claimed he took it a week before the opening of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, with Tibetan antelope running across the meadow.

And now he's admitted it's fake and he and his boss, the chief editor of the Daqing Evening News in Heilongjiang Province have resigned.

People started to notice something was wrong with the photo. When they magnified it, they saw a thin red line where the two pictures joined together.

And zoologists raised doubts as they said Tibetan antelope are easily disturbed by even the slightest noise, and the ones in the photo looked calm.

After all the criticisms, the 41-year-old Liu finally admitted he used Photoshop. But didn't want to take full blame, saying the original intent of the picture was for a poster, but then it was published on several websites for free.

First of all, why didn't the award-winning photographer explain from the beginning that the photo was doctored for publicity purposes? And when it was chosen by CCTV, didn't any judges raise any concerns?

Apparently when he was interviewed by the Chinese state television network, Liu even said he had waited for eight days and nights in the uninhabited land of Hoh Xil, situated more than 4,000 metres above sea level, to capture the shot.

Liu was probably so caught up in the attention he was getting that he and the paper felt no need to give any explanations.

But also this incident shows how people try to weigh their chances of getting caught and are prepared to take the risk than be honest.

It also illustrates the lack of critical thinking people have, a basic skill of questioning things. It was only later Liu's ruse was exposed.

This story echoes the South China Tiger photo which was also exposed as a fake recently.

A man claimed he took photos of a rare tiger several months ago in Shaanxi Province. The Shaanxi Forestry Department awarded Zhou Zhenglong a 20,000 RMB prize for the photo.

But then people on Internet forums thought it was so strange for a tiger to pose for a photo. And one discovered the photo was exactly the same as the one on his old calendar.

The Forestry Department admitted they jumped the gun on publicizing the pictures before authenticating them -- but they refused to proclaim they're fake.

And Zhou still insists, "The photos are 100 percent genuine. They are absolutely not fakes!"

Who looks worse -- the duped or the dupee?

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