More Photoshopped Photos Emerge in the Steve McCurry Scandal


Much has been written about the Steve McCurry Photoshop scandal since we originally reported on the story earlier this month. The NPPA Ethics Committee writes that the new revelations have “triggered a troubling reexamination of McCurry’s storied 40-year career.”

McCurry hasn’t responded to our latest request for comment — a spokesperson tells the NPPA McCurry is overseas and not checking email — but in his original statement to us, McCurry notes that he now considers himself to be more of a “visual storyteller” rather than a photojournalist. But that explanation isn’t sitting well with many industry figures.

“[McCurry] bears the responsibility to uphold the ethical standards of his peers and the public, who see him as a photojournalist,” writes NPPA Ethics Committee chairman Sean D. Elliot. “Any alteration of the journalistic truth of his images, any manipulation of the facts, regardless of how relevant he or others might feel they are to the deeper ‘truth,’ constitutes an ethical lapse.”

What may be more troubling for journalism industry watchdogs is the fact that the heavy-handed editing appears to show up in many other photographs published by McCurry online. As PetaPixel has learned from a number of photographers who wish to remain anonymous, a search for McCurry’s photos through image searches, through Internet archival services, and even on McCurry’s own websites often return photos that are inconsistent with each other.

While we have not been able to confirm that every one of these cases was published by McCurry himself, some of the inconsistent photos seen below are still available on McCurry’s website. Here’s a look at the discrepancies in some of McCurry’s photos found online:

This photo of a Tokyo street was apparently published on McCurry’s blog. It’s no longer available there, but two different versions exist online:

This next photo of a man in Russia was published once in 2013 and once in 2014 on McCurry’s blog. Both images are still online (at the time of this post):

McCurry published a photo of a man in Omo Valley, Ethiopia on his blog in 2012. Another version of the image published elsewhere has noticeable changes:

A photo taken in Honduras changed between when McCurry blogged about it in 2013 and then in 2014. Both versions are still online at the time of this post.

This photo taken in Paris, France, changed between McCurry blog posts between 2012 and 2013. Both images are online at the time of this post.

McCurry published a photo of a child at work in India. He shot the photo in 1993 and published it on his blog in 2009. A different version of the photo found online is missing the figure in the background.

A photo McCurry shot in Brazil is currently being sold by Magnum Photos as a black and white image (at the time of this post). The color version McCurry published in 2015 has noticeable differences in the scene:

Again, PetaPixel has not been able to confirm in some of these cases that the modified images were done by McCurry or those commissioned by him, but at the time of this post, a number of these photo versions are still available on McCurry’s own website (and on other reputable websites). We may also update with additional examples as they surface.

We have not been able to reach McCurry since his original statement to us, but we’ll update this post if we do receive a new response from the photographer.

Update: It appears that McCurry’s entire blog — along with the examples we referenced — has been deleted. We have not yet received any response to our request for comment.

Update on 5/27/2016: McCurry held a press conference yesterday (the 26th) at a gallery exhibition in Montreal. He was asked about the latest Photoshop controversy. Here’s his response to being asked if he’s against Photoshopping:

I think that [Photoshop] shouldn’t add or subtract things. I think that Photoshop is a tool to color correct and to do various sharpening and what not. Obviously everybody does that. That’s a tool that everybody uses. […] Color balance, everybody does that. I think as far as adding or subtracting things, that’s not something that needs to be done or should be done.

Update on 5/30/16: McCurry has responded to the controversy in a new exclusive interview with TIME. The piece is titled “I’m a Visual Storyteller Not a Photojournalist.” McCurry says that he will “rein in his use of Photoshop” going forward:

“[G]oing forward, I am committed to only using the program in a minimal way, even for my own work taken on personal trips,” McCurry tells TIME. “Reflecting on the situation… even though I felt that I could do what I wanted to my own pictures in an aesthetic and compositional sense, I now understand how confusing it must be for people who think I’m still a photojournalist.”

Image credits: Photographs by Steve McCurry