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Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (9)

A. D. Coleman, September 2013. Photo by Anna Lung.

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.

Daniel

“Behind the Photo: Robert Capa’s D-Day” (2014), screenshot from corrected version.

“Behind the Photo: Robert Capa’s D-Day” (2014), screenshot from corrected version.

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.

“Behind the Photo: Robert Capa’s D-Day” (2014), screenshot from corrected version.

“Behind the Photo: Robert Capa’s D-Day” (2014), screenshot from corrected version.

Upon verifying these changes, I emailed back to Kile, as follows:

Dear Daniel:

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.

Keeping On

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.

Next Case

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.

Robert Capa on D-Day, two videos, TIME website, screenshot 2014-06-29.

Robert Capa on D-Day, two videos, TIME website, screenshot 2014-06-29.

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.

Craig Duff Blogs. Capa D-DAY TIME video post, dated June 6, 2009, screenshot.

Craig Duff Blogs. Capa D-DAY TIME video post, dated June 6, 2009, screenshot.

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.)

Craig Duff, Capa D-Day video, TIME website link, screenshot, 2014-06-29.

Craig Duff, Capa D-Day video, TIME website link, screenshot, 2014-06-29.

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!

Craig Duff, “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” video (2009), Cynthia Young, screenshot.

Craig Duff, “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” video (2009), Cynthia Young, screenshot.

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.”

Craig Duff, “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” video (2009), screenshot.

Craig Duff, “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” video (2009), screenshot.

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.

Craig Duff, “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” video (2009), credits, screenshot.

Craig Duff, “The Iconic Photo of D-Day,” video (2009), credits, screenshot.

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.

Going Viral

Poynter Institute Straw Poll on TIME magazine's  2014 Robert Capa D-Day video, screenshot.

Poynter Institute Straw Poll on TIME magazine’s 2014 Robert Capa D-Day video, screenshot.

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.)

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8 comments to Alternate History: Robert Capa on D-Day (9)

  • Hi Allan,

    I’ve been following this most interesting thread, saying to myself a number of times, “This just doesn’t make sense.” When I saw the (now we know faked) “blank images,” I was really scratching my head. I couldn’t think of anything that would make a neg look like that. I didn’t buy Ross’ theory of an exposure with the lens off, because I’ve seen that, and the light bleeds past the normal bounds of the image area. At least that is what I remember, not having just gone out and tested my recollection with a new exposure. Anyway.

    But you asked if anyone can identify the middle photo, not by Capa, in the Duff video. Yes. At the Naval History and Heritage Command site (Normandy Invasion, June 1944, Overview and Special Image Selection), it’s labeled

    Photo #: 26-G-2337
    Normandy Invasion, June 1944
    LCVP landing craft put troops ashore on “Omaha” Beach on “D-Day,” 6 June 1944. The LCVP at far left is from USS Samuel Chase (APA-26). Photograph from the U.S. Coast Guard Collection in the U.S. National Archives. [Scroll down at that URL for this image.]

    A Coast Guard site captions it “LCVPs from the Chase approach Omaha Beach under fire.” [Scroll down at that URL for this image.]

    No direct attribution that I’m finding, but my wild guess is that it might have been a military photographer who didn’t get direct credit. But I’m still looking.

    cheers

    Bill

    • A. D. Coleman

      Thanks for finding this. Several readers came up with it, a tribute to the possibilities of crowdsourcing.

      In fairness, Capa’s using his camera minus a lens wasn’t ever Ross Baughman’s “theory.” It simply came on a list he offered of ways in which film could get so lightstruck as to end up drastically overexposed. His theory (which made sense to me) was that Capa had somehow fumbled his settings, either opening the lens too widely or using too slow a shutter speed (or both).

      That was when we took the “damaged” negatives in the TIME video as authentic. Now that we know they’re fakes, we have to ask what would cause film to appear like “gray soup,” “pea soup,” or the other vague descriptors used by John Morris, the only eyewitness ever to describe those negatives. Severe underexposure is certainly a possibility.

  • Bill Barrett

    Apologies for misrepresenting the notion that Capa had taken pictures with the lens off. I appreciate the casting of a wide net for theories of those grey negatives. It was my intention to say that I didn’t think that could have been the cause, but now I think my note could be construed wrongly. It wasn’t my intention to be disparaging of Ross.

    Update: The National Archives is currently engaged in a search to see if that photo, which bears a Coast Guard negative control number, has any individual photographer’s name linked to the image. I’ll report back on anything they tell me, with the caution that it may be a while, as the pictures fill 8 boxes at the Archives, and are apparently not in any searchable order.

  • Bill Barrett

    Well, the National Archives just called. They found the picture in question, and said that someone wrote “Sargent” on the back of the print. They also found others in the same group with “Robert F. Sargent, US Coast Guard” as the photographer, so it is their belief that the photograph was very likely taken by that same Coast Guard photographer. Not a definitive answer, but I doubt we’ll know anything more.

  • Bill Barrett

    They didn’t (and truthfully I didn’t ask), but I think the USCG blog at http://tinyurl.com/mzclhrb, with several more photos by Chief Photographers Mate Robert F. Sargent, is probably a good starting point.

    Curiously, we’ve come around to where this started, in a sense. Sargent’s photo “Into the jaws of death” is featured on Ross’ first guest post page of this series.

  • It seems others have also come up with the information I sent you yesterday on the source of the ‘fake’ image. I suspect the other non-Capa images in the video are from a similar source, though I’ve not yet managed to locate them. There are a couple showing LCT 305.

    Thanks to some help from one of the reader of my blog, Chris Livesey I can tell you more about Hans Wild, one of the people in the London Office when the films were processed. There is a photograph of him on the UK National Portrait Gallery site which contains the following information:

    Hans Wild (1912-1969), Photographer
    Sitter in 1 portrait
    Artist of 1 portrait
    Photographer from 1936. Worked for Life magazine from 1938 taking assignments in America, France and Italy until 1946 (including a famous cover picture of Winston Churchill). Returned to London to set up his own studio in Chelsea specialising in fashion and theatre but predominantly working for industry. His dance photographs appeared in the Richard Buckle’s Ballet magazine.

    I found over 3000 pictures by him on Getty Images, taken from 1 Jan 2000 to 2009 – 12 years before his birth and 40 after his death! Those labelled 2000 look as if they were taken in the 1930s.

    I’ve written a little more on >Re:PHOTO, but I don’t think it adds much actual information. There is another image in the Capa Magnum set which also claims to have been taken by him on 6th June on Omaha beach – did he really get back there to photograph later the same day?

    • A. D. Coleman

      According to the National Archives, that mystery photo of the landing crafts approaching Omaha Beach was most likely made by Robert Sargent, the U.S. Coast Guard photographer best known for the image titled “Into the Jaws of Death,” from a few minutes later.

      Thanks for this about Hans Wild. I’d found the same bio online, but not much else. Also the Getty Images listings. Surely the most extensive posthumous body of work in the medium’s history.

      I’m hoping one of your readers actually knew Wild, or knows of an interview with him about working for LIFE during WWII and that night with Capa’s negatives.

      I’ve seen that Capa image at the Magnum website, dated June 6. Simply impossible. Coast Guard records indicate that the Chase didn’t get back to Weymouth till the morning of June 7. Even if Capa just handed over his films, changed his clothes, and headed back, he couldn’t have landed in Normandy again till the evening of the 7th. So the Magnum caption’s wrong.

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