The Photo Henri Cartier-Bresson Created Three Years After His Death


Do a search for “Henri Cartier-Bresson” using Google’s image search engine, and the photograph above is one of the results that pops up. Dig a little deeper into the results, and you’ll learn that it’s a photo by Cartier-Bresson showing French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Problem is, that’s all wrong. The woman in the photo isn’t Isabelle Huppert, and the photograph wasn’t snapped by the father of modern photojournalism.

Andrew Orlowski of The Register calls it an example of “hive mind photo fail,” and reports that the photograph was actually snapped after the legendary photographer was already dead.

The photograph among Google search results for "Henri Cartier-Bresson"

The photograph among Google search results for “Henri Cartier-Bresson”

The picture was actually created by Lithuanian-born photographer Andrej Vasilenko on a beach at the edge of Lithuanian. It was shot in 2007 — three years after Cartier-Bresson passed away.

The subject of the photograph is a young woman named Miglė Narbutaitė, who was a fellow photo student at the time Vasilenko shot the photograph for a school assignment.

The Register writes that although Vasilenko was at first flattered to have his photo mistakenly attributed to one of the most famous and respected photographers, he became less enthusiastic about the mistake as it propagated across the Web.

At the time of this post, Google Image Search reveals that the mistake can be found on over a hundred sources across the Internet:


In an interview with, Vasilenko says that misattribution makes him hesitant to publish his work on the Internet:

it’s my work and I own the rights. I wouldn’t mind someone using it, if they ask my permission first. If you put a link to the original source then it’s not so bad, but if people could freely use my work without crediting me then I would definitely publish less. I am not a well known photographer and I want more people to see my work, but not if they think it’s someone else’s.

An interesting thing about this story is that the mistake is relatively easy to spot if you give the photograph a close look. The girl’s shoes and backpack are both very modern looking, while Cartier-Bresson officially retired from photography in the early 1970s.

Google and other search engines are powerful in finding and aggregating data, but it’s up to the users of photographs to verify the truth of what’s published. Since this is often neglected altogether, it’s probably the case that image search results are rampant with misattribution and incorrect information — just like the Web as a whole.

(via The Register via The Phoblographer)

Image credit: Photograph by Andrej Vasilenko

  • Mario Liedtke

    You are right, but thats not new.
    Search for any random celebrity, and you will be (not) surprised of the results.
    Search for “{insert random color here} + {insert random car name here}” and you will get many, many good hits – and some strange, too.

  • Mark Tisdale

    You see this sort of thing every day on social media. Images are shared with totally fictional stories to accompany them. I’m not surprised that some of them take on a life of their own because if they go viral, the comments on those images are off the scale and no number of people correcting the source/story behind it can make a dent on the number of people who have been misinformed. And it goes a step beyond the people who do see the corrective comments can be abusive – as if it personally offends them to be told the truth?

    In this case, I think it goes to the same vein of people who believe any quote put in the mouth of a long-dead person of influence. They seem to think it makes the information more true if the source is credible. In this case, the photo has more credence if it came from a master of the art.

    I have no doubt there are a ton of images on the internet purposefully or accidentally misattributed.

  • Michael Rasmussen

    it’s time for us to post links to the image with proper attribution to assist the photographer.

  • bchalifour

    !970 is as erroneous a piece of information as the mentioned photograph. HCB kept on photographing well after 1970 (one famous example is L’Isle sur la Sorgue, 1988, present in several books and exhibitions… among others…).

  • Igor Ken

    April fool?

  • KH

    Well said.

  • Ren Bostelaar

    You’re just being tricked by the smeary clouds caused by a relatively long exposure during the day. It’s a true Ansel Adams, widely printed for decades before CGI was even a possibility.

  • l0k

    oh ok thanks for clarifying

  • Yoda

    Ironically, this article (esp. the title) just strengthened the link between Bresson and the photo within google’s search results.