The photo shows two children, wrapped in shrouds after a bombing in the Gaza Strip. Men are carrying their bodies down a narrow street, their faces filled with rage and sorrow. This is Paul Hansen’s image that won the 2013 World Press Photo of the Year. Some claim the image is a fake.
“This year's World Press Photo Award wasn't given for a photograph. It was awarded to a digital composite that was significantly reworked,” Dr. Neal Kraewtz posted on hackerfactor.com, a computer forensics website, revealing the science behind the altered image.
“Here's what likely happened. ... The photographer took a series of photos. However, the sun's position made everyone dark and in silhouette. So, he combined a few pictures and altered the people so you could see their faces,” Kraewtz said.
After recent allegations, World Press Photo submitted Hansen’s image for forensic analysis.
“It is clear that the published photo was retouched with respect to both global and local color and tone. Beyond this, however, we find no evidence of significant photo manipulation or compositing,” World Press Photo said in a statement.
Dr. Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College, who studied the image for the organization, said the position of the image’s pixels “are exactly in the same place in the JPEG as they are in the RAW file.”
The photo, named “Gaza Burial” was taken for Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter in November 2012. It depicts a real event, in which Foaad Hejaze and his two sons were killed after an Israeli air strike in Jabaliya refugee camp. Palestinian mourners are shown carrying the two boys, Mohammed and Suhaib Foaad Hejaze, during their funeral procession.
Spiegel reported how the photo seems “too perfect to be true” and noted how Hansen refused to talk about the editing process at the awards ceremony.
“He had intended to bring along the RAW file, which is essentially the photo's digital original, for comparison purposes, but he claims that he forgot to bring it,” the news outlet reports.
Kraewtz asserted the photo was altered. He looked at the save history of the photo file and an error level analysis, or ELA, that showed inconsistencies with the image’s pixels.
Anything in red or blue is caused by normal photo compression; areas in white are caused by “other forces,” Extreme Tech reports. The site notes how almost every face has been brightened and the children’s shrouds.
“Notice how the near wall on the far left is significantly brighter than the near wall on the far right. And notice how the middle people are much brighter than the other people. Those are either due to splices or touch-ups,” Kraewtz wrote describing his ELA analysis.
He also noted how “the lighting on the people does not match the sun's position. The people should have dark shadows on their right sides (photo-left), but their facial lighting does not match the available lighting.”
Hansen defended his work and said the lighting was natural.
"In the post-process toning and balancing of the uneven light in the alleyway, I developed the raw file with different density to use the natural light instead of dodging and burning -- in effect to recreate what the eye sees and get a larger dynamic range,” Hansen told news.com.au.
The Swedish photographer has worked for Dagens Nyheter since 2000. He has has won numerous awards, including being named Sweden’s Photographer of the Year seven times.
"I have never had a photograph more thoroughly examined, by four experts and different photo-juries all over the world," he said. "To put it simply, it's the same file -- developed over itself -- the same thing you did with negatives when you scanned them."