Of the Essence
With remarkable speed, Time Inc. has responded to this blog’s revelation that the seeming examples of Robert Capa’s “ruined” D-Day negatives shown in the TIME video “Behind the Picture: Robert Capa’s D-Day” are actually carefully constructed, digitally altered fakes.
On Monday afternoon, June 30, just days after publication here of Rob McElroy’s investigation of this fraud, and just hours after publication of my follow-up on that with a formal complaint to the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), I received an email from Daniel Kile, Vice-President of Communications at Time Inc.:
Dear A. D. -
Regarding your posts on TIME’s story and video on Robert Capa’s D-Day: TIME’s video and story have been updated to include a photo illustration credit. The film now includes a prominent label on the negatives and on the end credits (see attached for screen grabs). Our story has been updated to include an editor’s note about the change.
Indeed, when I checked the video shortly thereafter it had undergone revision. The brief accompanying story by Mia Tramz now concludes thus: “Editor’s note: This video has been updated to include a photo illustration credit.” A visible if discreet “PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY TIME” indication appears on-screen as the faked negatives scroll by. (Highlighted in red here, in the lower left-hand corner; click on the image at right to enlarge it.)
And, on the credits screen, they’ve added “Negatives—Photo Illustration by TIME/Magnum Photos.” (Highlighted in red again; click on the image below to enlarge it.) This seems to indicate that Time Inc. and Magnum share responsibility for the fakes.
Upon verifying these changes, I emailed back to Kile, as follows:
Thanks for your follow-up email. I’ve looked again at the video, and see that all the changes have fallen into place. My compliments on achieving this so quickly; that speaks to the seriousness with which you took this violation of standard practice.
I’ll post a report on this revision at my blog shortly. Toward that end, can you inform me about the regulations, protocols, and directives under which your videos get produced, and what oversight systems you have in place for drafts and finished pieces?
I’m assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that given the quantity of these you publish at the site some get produced in-house while others get outsourced — and that, if so, your in-house staffers would have internalized the guidelines more than independent producers.
I have readers who want to know how this happened, and what you have in place to prevent this from happening. I’d like to pass along whatever you want to say in that regard, for the record.
I will publish whatever response I receive from Kile in a subsequent post.
As a courtesy, I emailed Sean Elliott, Ethics Committee Chairman of the NPPA, including Kile’s email and a link to the updated video, with the following comments:
So TIME has done the right thing, belatedly. But this leaves some broad questions unanswered.
1. What strictures, regulations, requirements does TIME place on jobs like this that it outsources — in this case, to Magnum in Motion? And what oversight, enforcement, and punitive measures does it have in place for infractions like this?
2. Who actually made those fake negatives — the Capa Archives at the ICP? Magnum? TIME? (In the credits for the film, TIME now claims them as theirs.)
3. How could the Capa Archives, Magnum, and John Morris — all of whom surely knew that these were fake — authorize and approve their use in this film?
4. How does this connect to a decades-long history of mythmaking re Capa’s D-Day actions and output, including the fiction that he exposed mutliple rolls of film on Omaha Beach when in fact, according to his own caption notes, he exposed only one, and a partial one at that?
In short, TIME’s revisions to the film correct the problem without explaining how it came to pass. So I reaffirm my request for your committee’s investigation of this matter. Only that way can lessons get learned.
That’s especially important because the falsifying of evidence related to Robert Capa’s D-Day negatives by TIME magazine and the International Center of Photography did not begin with the forged negatives discovered by Rob McElroy in the May 29, 2014 TIME video.
Last weekend, McElroy emailed me about a curious find he’d made at TIME‘s website. A search for “capa” in TIME‘s videos turned up what appear to be two links to two differently titled versions of the same video — one titled “Robert Capa’s Iconic D-Day Photo of a Soldier in the Surf” and datelined May 29, 2014, the second titled “The Iconic Photo of D-Day” and datelined June 6, 2009, the 65th anniversary of D-Day. (Look in the right-hand column.)
Both links lead to “Behind the Picture: Robert Capa’s D-Day,” the 2014 video by Adrian Kelterborn, which raised an important question about that project. Presently it appears online with a May 29, 2014 dateline on its accompanying story by Mia Tramz. No copyright notice or production date appears on its credit page, making it logical to assume that May 29, 2014 represents its original publication date. Had TIME actually posted it first on June 6, 2009, then re-posted it on May 29 of this year? Nothing wrong with such repurposing, in my opinion, but I’d expect some brief notice thereof, unless TIME has decided to make its datelines fungible.
On the off-chance that a second video about Capa’s D-Day images existed at the TIME site, either currently or in the past, I Googled the title given at the site for that earlier video: “The Iconic Photo of D-Day.” This led me to the blog of Craig Duff, “multimedia journalist and filmmaker,” hitherto unknown to me, where on June 6, 2009 he posted the following:
The Iconic Photo of D-Day
In a video I produced for TIME this week, Cynthia Young, a curator at the International Center of Photography, describes the 10 images taken by Robert Capa for LIFE magazine on D-Day, 65 years ago today. One is perhaps the most recognized image from that fateful day.
Sure enough, following this brief introduction Duff offers “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” a TIME-sponsored video, 5 minutes long, in which Young narrates the standard version of the Capa-on-Omaha-Beach legend; the visuals alternate between Young speaking and Capa’s images (shown complete and as details) scrolling across the screen with her voice as soundtrack. (You’ll find a better version of the video here at Vimeo, downloadable in several resolutions. I have no idea why it no longer appears at the TIME site.)
I’ll have more to say about the falsified content of the video in a moment. Before we get to that, let me complete my account of the search for this video at the TIME website.
Armed with the producer’s name, I returned to the TIME site, where a search for “craig duff capa” brought up an apparent link to his video, dated June 6, 2009. However, though it may previously have led to Duff’s piece, this link now delivers the May 29, 2014 video by Adrian Kelterborn. (That search also revealed that Duff has produced dozens of videos for TIME.) All most peculiar.
Oops!… She Did It Again!
So this is in fact the first of two TIME videos on Capa’s D-Day images, published on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 2009. It proves itself a fitting companion to Kelterborn’s more recent video, containing as it does yet more fabrications in both its spoken narrative and its visual presentation. Here are extracts from Cynthia Young’s commentary:
“Robert Capa was probably the most famous war photographer of the twentieth century. … On the very early morning of the 6th, Capa was part of the second wave — the second group of the first wave — going in onto Omaha Beach. … It was a very chaotic day. … So Capa was shooting with his camera through all of this. [He made a total of 11 exposures.] … In testimony from other people and in letters [sic] he was terrified, very scared — dodging bullets like all the rest of the soldiers as they were getting up on the beach.
… Capa photographed for about an hour and a half on the beach, I believe. [The timeline makes it considerably less.] There was a soldier assigned to pick up all the film from the beach, put it into a pack, and transport it back to the ships, and that pack was lost. [This happened at Utah Beach, not Omaha Beach.] So the only films that survived were the films that weren’t picked up by the personnel assigned to that, including Capa’s. [There was no one assigned to pick up Capa's film on Omaha Beach.]
… In the excitement to get the film prepared for exposure [sic], the heat went up in the drying rack [sic] and the emulsion literally melted off the plastic film. So what was left were these eleven images of just the invasion moments — the soldiers climbing up on the beach.”
Watching this video, you’ll see an image you never saw before as the “magnificent eleven” scroll by — the middle picture in the screenshot above. I haven’t managed to identify it. Not one of the “magnificent eleven,” certainly; it appears to describe ships and landing craft heading toward Omaha Beach.
Whoever inserted this between the recognizable Capa images on the left and right did so clumsily, to say the least; the left-hand edge of this frame overlaps the right-hand edge of Capa’s first D-Day image. Since we know now that Capa’s D-Day take starts with the frame on the left, and this middle image precedes it on the timeline, I have to assume someone else made it. Reader assistance in establishing its source definitely welcome.
In a short text accompanying his posting of this video at Vimeo, Duff writes, “Many thanks for photo editor Mark Rykoff for his assistance with the images, and Cynthia Young, a curator at the International Photography Center in New York, who sat down with me to tell the incredible story behind Robert Capa’s images.” The story is indeed incredible, and the picture editing likewise.
According to his bio at the TIME website, Mark Rykoff, Senior Photo Editor at TIME.com, is the “head of TIME.com photography.” He took on the job of “head[ing] up photography for the magazine’s website in 2007. Mark received a News and Documentary Emmy Award for TIME.com’s multimedia series Iconic Photos in 2010,” the bio concludes, which means that this falsified video piece shared in that triumph.
So that’s two TIME videos on Capa’s D-Day images, both with faked visual evidence and the parroting of the received (and highly questionable) version of Capa’s actions and output on Omaha Beach. Both produced with the cooperation and endorsement of the ICP’s Capa Archive. Coincidence? You decide.
On Monday, June 30th, the day my previous post appeared, the Poynter Institute picked up the story in their “Everyday Ethics” news category and summarized it; see “Time clarifies: Ruined images in D-Day video were photo illustration,” by Kristen Hare. Hare telephoned both Rob McElroy and me for quotes. They also made that story into a “straw poll” on readers’ response to its importance (“Big deal or not a big deal” were the options.) The first vote came from Molly Roberts, Picture Editor of Smithsonian, who voted “Big deal.”
Today, July 1, PetaPixel published a summary by Gannon Burgett, “TIME Addresses the Fake Ruined Negatives from the Robert Capa D-Day Documentary.” PetaPixel sent it out to their 692,792 Google+ fans with the teaser line, “Sadly, major ethical breaches are fairly common in the world of online publishing, but nobody ever expected one to come from the much-revered TIME magazine.” They also tweeted it to their 180,000 Twitter subscribers.
And Peter marshall has published two thoughtful posts on this Capa series at his blog, Re: Photo: “Capa Under Fire,” posted June 25, which addresses Ross Baughman’s original posts and my first few, and “More on Capa – Fraud,” posted today, June 30, in which he discusses Rob McElroy’’s post and my later ones. He’s always worth reading.
(For an index of links to all posts in this series, click here.)