In November 2007, the 12th annual China International Photographic Arts Exposition was held. Ye Weitang’s
won a golden award in the Social Lives and Customs section. Beijing Times Photography Supervisor Luo Yonghong raised these doubts: In the photo titled , there were several spots in which digital alterations clearly occurred. A1 and A2 were clearly the same house entrance. B1 and B2 were the same fire. The pig in C in the man’s left hand is far too white. The woman in D is carrying a bucket of water away from the fire instead of towards it. The incident came from real life, but the manipulation of this photograph was particularly crude.
According to the China Photography Association, this photograph is acknowledged by the photographer to have been altered by digital technology and not an original work. But this kind of alteration cannot be rejected as “fakery” because the photograph was entered in a non-news category. As such, it ought to be judged based upon whether the art work was good.
According to renowned photographer Bao Kun, the photography expositions in China did not follow international practice of dividing works into documentary versus art categories. This occurred as a result of historical reasons and led to a series of problems. As a national competition judge many times, Bao Kun has identified many altered photographs winning documentary prizes. After the problem with
was exposed, he contacted the China Photography Association. He found that the Association was ready to rescind the award but then it realized that with so many other altered photographs winning awards, it would be a disaster to rescind all those awards. Thus, the awards stayed. Bao Kun thinks that the competitions should be separated by category and the higher quality judges are needed.
The photo below was one of CCTV’s Top 10 News Photo of the Year 2007 winner, but it has also been found to be a photoshopped stitch of two separate pictures. The award-winning photographer is Liu Weiqiang (刘为强), currently the assistant director of the photography department at Daqing Evening News, a senior member of the Chinese Photographers Association and a specially contracted Xinhua photographer:
The following transcript of an interview at the award presentation ceremony shows the photographer’s undying dedication to his profession:
Li Xiaoming: Liu Weiqiang, let me first congratulate you. I want to also let everybody know that Liu Weiqiang was the latest winner to learn about the news. When did you find out?
Liu: On the day before yesterday.
Li: You only found out on the day before yesterday. When our worker called you, where were you?
Liu: In the uninhabited area of Kekexili.
Li: Therefore your trip here was quite complicated.
Liu: When I first learned the news, I did not intend to come here. This is the mating season for the antelopes and it is a hard-to-capture moment. But I thought that this was a chance for me and the Tibetan antelopes, and so I hurried over here.
Li: You believe that your receiving an award is an opportunity for the Tibetan antelopes.
Liu: It should be.
Li: You take a look at your photograph. It was taken at an uninhabited area at 4,000 or 5,000 meters above sea level. What is the probability that you, the train and the Tibetan antelopes all appeared at the same time and place?
Liu: In the language of photography, this was an instant. It was a very brief moment. The Tibetan antelopes are smart and easily scared. When humans are even far away, they are already fleeing. When I took this photograph, I dug a hole half a meter deep and I put camouflage on top. I hid in the hole covered by camouflage. That was why the Tibetan antelopes came to pass in front of my camera. It took only a several seconds for the Tibetan antelopes to pass in front of me. But I had waited for eight days.
Li: Eight days?
Li: Eight days. Does that mean eight days and eight nights? Eight 24-hour days?
Liu: Almost eight 24-hours.
Li: By the time of the seventh day, did you know that the antelopes will come on the eighth day? If they did not come on the eighth day, or even the tenth day, what would you do?
Liu: I would have continued to wait. Actually I was aware that I may not capture the fleeting moment if I wait for eight or even eighteen days. But as a reporter, I ought to stay at my post. I can wait eight days, eighteen days, twenty-eight days to capture that beautiful moment. I have been filming Tibetan antelopes from March to now.
Li: The main theme of your series of photographs is the Tibetan antelope. You chose this location where the train and the railroad track played a prominent part. What is the purpose of this photograph?
Liu: I want to be able to capture the harmony among the Tibetan antelopes, the train, men and nature on July 1, 2006. I want to express through this photograph that the earth belongs to everybody. Everybody wants to see harmony among men and animals.
Li: You went through the trouble of getting here to receive the award. Afterwards, you will be hurrying back or will you go home?
Liu: I am flying back tomorrow to Golmud (Qinghai) because the mating season for the Tibetan antelopes is very brief. During this year, I have filmed the life cycle of the Tibetan antelopes over all four seasons. I am just missing the courting among the Tibetan antelopes at the end. I want to capture this. Next year this time, I want to call for the 2,700,000 Daqing people to donate money for the Tibetan antelopes in the name of Daqing Evening News. But as long as this photograph can help everybody to understand the Tibetan antelope better and care about them, my efforts are not wasted. Thanks, everybody.
“The antelopes in the photograph are real. The overpass bridge is also real. But it was not easy to capture such a moment.” Liu Weiqiang admitted openly: The photograph was created by PhotoShop. Liu said that the photograph was taken in 2006 and served as the poster/postcard for the Kekexili nature preservation area. Later, the Kekexili nature preservation area let the China Environmental News publish it. This photograph was then discovered by CCTV which selected it as one of the most memorable news photographs of the year 2006. “I had never published this photograph as a news photograph. After receiving this award, I did not use it to enter the Holland world competition or the China news photography competition, because this was an artistic photograph that had been modified.” As to why a PhotoShop-ed photograph could win a news photography award, Liu Weiqiang said, “Maybe it is because the award judges were not familiar with the habits of the Tibetan antelopes.”
“Actually, I hoped that this incident would blow up because more people will pay attention to the Tibetan antelopes!” said Liu Weiqiang. As for netizens calling for his award to be rescinded, Liu said that he only has a piece of paper and a cup to show and therefore this does not mean much to him. “Presently, the focus of my attention is on the Tibetan antelopes!”
UPDATE: Liu Weiqiang has been fired