There are few things I love more than photography, Photoshop and good Chinese controversy. Imagine my delight then when I stumbled across a WSJ article, “China Eats Crow Over Faked Photo Of Rare Antelope“, that melds the three.

The fake photo, with a little Photoshopping of my own.In what has become this month’s journalistic black-eye (in a LONG line of similar cuts and bruises) for China, it’s been discovered that a photo of the rare Tibetan antelope (or Chiru) casually cavorting along the Tibetan plateau as the new Qinghai-Xizang high-speed train bullets by was completely fake.

The image, photographed manufactured by journalist photographer Photoshop amateur Liu Weiqing, has appeared in hundreds of newspapers across the country and was even named one of CCTVs top 10 photos of 2006. As it nicely depicts the endangered antelope unfazed by the modern marvel of man, it’s not hard to see that it worked as some perfect propaganda to quell the mass of environmentalists who are against the world’s highest railroad.

Suspicions about the photo became public last week after Mr. Liu’s photograph was displayed in Beijing’s subway system. An anonymous Chinese Internet user going by the screen name Dajiala raised questions about the photo’s authenticity on one of China’s largest photography Web sites. Dajiala, a photographer who claimed to idolize Mr. Liu, said he was studying a copy of the photo posted on Beijing’s Line 5 subway platform when he rubbed some dust off it and noticed something odd.

“At the bottom of the photograph, there was a very obvious line,” he wrote. “I examined it very carefully and it was obviously the stitching of two different images….Was this decisive moment just a simple Photoshop trick?”

His post created an online storm. Photographers blew up the image and analyzed each out-of-place pixel. Animal behaviorists weighed in, explaining that antelope are shy and noise-sensitive, and would scatter in panic at the sound of the high-speed train. When the chat-room controversy spread to China’s largest Internet portals, the Chengdu Business Daily confronted Mr. Liu.

Cornered by the mounting evidence, Mr. Liu admitted he had indeed used Photoshop to blend two pictures, according to the newspaper.

What’s amusing to me is not that it’s a doctored image, but that it was done so poorly. I mean, if you’re going to try and deceive a country with your graphical guile, uncovering it should take CIA experts with those fancy computers that you simply say “enhance” to, not some guy on a subway.

Be sure to check out the WSJ’s nifty Flash page showing some of the key areas of the photo that are being disputed.

Incidentally, because I think it’s a neat tidbit of info, the Fúwá Olympic Mascot Yingying is a Chiru/Tibetan antelope. Additionally, the rather well-done film Ke Ke Xi Li revolves around the protection and slaughter of these animals.


  1. Not seen that image before, but now it seems glaringly obvious that it’s a fake (despite my terrible photo-taking skills, as anyone with access to my Facebook knows), because the perspective on the animals is not quite right, and he’s just too close to the wild antelopes judging by the rocks that are right in front of his lens – so, he was lying on his tummy on the ground just a few metres from these wild animals?!

    Furthermore, it was interesting that the propaganda machine so much wanted this image to allay fears around the world about the environmental impact of the Tibetan railway line that it makes one wonder what brought the whole thing about: the fake image slaked the thirst of the propaganda mill; or, the propaganda mill fed the hunger of a dubious photo-journalist?

  2. Pretty bad job, but I’m wary of calling anything ‘shopped. Our post on those Chinglish blocks was Fark’d and Boing-Boing’d this month, leading to a surge of comments around the web. Plenty of people think we made them up, too. All misrepresentuh China wit our photoshoppy ways.

  3. @Steven: A little from column A and a little from column B I think.

    @Josh:You got Boing Boing’d! Haha. Bit past due, isn’t that post like 2 years old?? 🙂 Either way, well deserved, that post was hilarious.

    In the case of the antelopes however, the photographer did owe up to it… though in this country would it surprise anyone if that was faked as well?

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