Swedish photographer Paul Hansen's photo "Gaza Burial" took top honors when the World Press Photo awards were announced Friday, but now critics are claiming that the powerful image was overly manipulated.
As ExtremeTech notes, forensic image analyst Dr. Neal Krawetz pointed out that Hansen's photo may be a composite spliced from three separate images and edited shortly before the contest deadline in January.
"I cannot tell you about the original picture(s), but I can tell you that the controversial picture is definitely not original. Moreover, it appears to have been modified specifically for this contest," Krawetz, who holds a doctorate in computer science and specializes in computer forensic research, wrote on his blog.
As Der Spiegel points out, post-processing of digital imagery has stoked controversy as critics "fear that the boundaries are becoming blurred between journalistic photography... and artistic and commercial image design."
The news outlet also alludes to a political dimension behind the criticism, voiced by pro-Israel blogosphere, as Hansen's submission shows two of the casualties of Israeli retaliation to Palestinian rocket fire last November.
Hansen has denied that the photo was Photoshopped, telling News.com.au that the "photograph is certainly not a composite or a fake," explaining:
"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."
The question at hand, then, is whether the photo has been enhanced to a point where it is no longer objective. According to Der Spiegel, the controversy around the photo deepened when Hansen reportedly forgot to furnish the camera RAW image file as proof of its authenticity. A camera RAW file presents the image in a minimally processed or unprocessed state.
World Press Photo told HuffPost UK that it has invited "two independent experts to carry out a forensic investigation of the image file" in order to curtail further speculation about the photo's authenticity. Hansen is cooperating with the investigation.
The World Press Photo rule pertaining to photo manipulation states that the "content of the image must not be altered," and that "only retouching which conforms to the currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed."