Faked Chinese Photo: Propaganda or Personal?
This is a doozy, from China.
The photographer of an award-winning photo that advanced the Chinese government’s aims and allayed fears of environmentalists who had protested a high-speed China-Tibet rail link has admitted faking his widely published photo of a herd of rare-species chiru antelope placidly grazing underneath the train tracks, while a train zooms by.
It is two photos spliced together. Liu Weiqing, a man who claimed on his blog, “One man, one car, one year…and a campaign to protect Tibetan antelope,” has now resigned in disgrace along with his editor, his reward revoked.
But…as the Wall Street Journal notes,
Other photographs that took home awards that night included “Facing a harmonious future,” a picture of Chinese President Hu posing with world leaders, and a “A trip to apologize,” a picture of a Japanese monk apologizing to China for Japanese atrocities in World War II. CCTV didn’t reply to inquiries about its criteria for photo awards.
In other words, this award seems to follow a trail that dovetail’s nicely with Chinese government policies and propaganda.
Which makes me–and the Journal’s writers Jane Spencer and Juliet Ye–wonder if Liu was merely the fall guy, if he was asked or ordered to come up with a photo like this:
His friends say he was dedicated to his job and determined to raise the profile of the embattled antelope. “He was a good guy,” says Zhou Zhuogang, an environmental activist from Shenzhen in southern China who met Mr. Liu in the summer of 2006 when the two men were at a volunteer station on the Tibetan plateau. “He loved photography, and he loved the antelope. I don’t know what pushed him to do this.”
Some suspect pressure to create the photo came from above. “When everybody points a finger to the photographer, we actually missed the real core problem here,” says Wang Yangbo, editor of Wen Wei Pao, a Hong Kong Daily. The photographers “are nobodies in the scheme of things here,” she adds.
• China invaded Tibet in the 1950s, has behaved with the worst kind of imperialistic colonialism since then, and continues to repress Tibetans and their independence movement
• China has been roundly criticized on a number of environmental grounds, from flooding a huge and magnificent area with the Three Gorges Dam to contributing to rapid climate change through its unbridled (and largely un-pollution controlled) consumption of fossil fuels
• Environmentalists tried to block this train’s construction precisely because of worries about this antelope species