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Altered photos removed from New York Times Web site

  • Story Highlights
  • New York Times admits pictures in recent photo essay were digitally manipulated
  • Editors say photos in Sunday Magazine were changed "for aesthetic reasons"
  • Photographer Edgar Martins' photo essay showcased real estate bust
By Chris Kokenes
CNN
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- All the news that's fit to print -- the motto of The New York Times -- does not necessarily apply to photos.

The newspaper published an editor's note Thursday stating that pictures used in a photo essay in its most recent Sunday Magazine were digitally manipulated without the paper's knowledge.

The Times commissioned Portuguese photographer Edgar Martins to shoot a Sunday magazine color photo essay titled "Ruins of the Second Gilded Age" to capture physical evidence of the real estate bust that took place across the United States.

In the text that preceded the six photos that were published, the magazine stated that while the photographer "creates images with long exposures," he does so without digital manipulation.

"A reader ... discovered upon close examination that one of the pictures was digitally altered, apparently for aesthetic reasons," the Times editors wrote.

"Editors later confronted the photographer and determined that most of the images did not wholly reflect the reality they purported to show. Had the editors known that the photographs had been digitally manipulated, they would not have published the picture essay, which has been removed from the NYTimes.com," the note concluded.

Numerous attempts by CNN to reach Edgar Martins by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful.

The newspaper's decision to withdraw the photos left a publisher of Martins' book "Topologies" released in 2008, intrigued and surprised.

"I think he's a great artist and we're very proud to have published his prior works," said Lesley Martin, publisher of Aperture books.

She said that Martins' prior works frequently verge on abstract landscapes, including forests ravaged by fire and nighttime beaches. "His work has a certain visual effect. A distinct look and feel to it."

However, Martin said she understands the newspaper's decision.

Aperture books, which publishes a variety of photographic styles, including photojournalism, "would not have published this work in a strict journalistic context had we known there would be manipulation used," she said.

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