The art of producing fake photos used to be practiced primarily, and more or less expertly, by tyrants such as Joseph Stalin [1879-1953], wishing to remove undesirable individuals from group snapshots.
These days, countless computer users have tried their hand at innocent "Photoshopping", often in a crude fashion, as demonstrated in my fake photo of Marseille's ferry boat scampering around out in the sea as if it were an offshore racer:
On last year's April Fool's Day, my article entitled Stray animal at Gamone [display] wasn't intended to convince anybody that my donkey Moshé really rolled around in the dust at Gamone with a visiting red kangaroo:
Things get a little bit murkier when professional people use Photoshop retouching in a deliberate attempt to pull the wool over our eyes. My article of 23 August 2007 entitled Photoshop surgery [display] indicated a ridiculous case of such an operation:
A much talked-about recent case of falsification was this Chinese image of Tibetan antelopes racing away from a high-speed train:
Observers were amazed that a photographer, Liu Weiqing, could be present at exactly the moment that the train emerged on the viaduct, sending the herd of rare animals hurtling away in fear. Well, he wasn't! It's simply yet another fake photo, obtained by combining the train and the antelopes. The story of how this photo was first acclaimed as a masterpiece, before being revealed as a fake, is utterly fascinating.
Today, I learn [once again from the excellent Scientific American magazine, mentioned in my previous blog article] that there's a clever US specialist named Hany Farid who has developed methods of revealing that such-and-such a photo is fake. I advise you to visit his fine website [display] to see specimens of Farid's art and findings. In his magazine article, Farid offers us this lovely image of Jan Ullrich shaking hands with an attractive female cyclist:
Cautious viewers, discovering this image, might ask semantic questions. First of all: What on earth was this unusual cycling event that brought together Ullrich and a female in a yellow jersey, with long hair and superbly muscular legs? Second: How come the female's helmet appears to be a recolored clone of Ullrich's helmet? Last, but not least: What's that American fire hydrant doing alongside the road? Did Jan Ullrich ever get around to competing in the USA in a mixed male/female event (?) during the brief period in 2003 when he was a member of the Bianchi team? Click the fake photo [or, better still, subscribe to Scientific American] to find answers.
Many observers are anguished when they realize how easy it has become to cheat with photos. Hany Farid's excellent article entitled Digital Image Forensics informs us that the goodies and baddies are at love-all. [Excuse me for borrowing a tennis metaphor... but the final of the French Open is about to start at Roland-Garros.] The image crooks use ingenious techniques to create fake photos, but the cops have a lot of excellent detection tricks up their sleeves.