Editing error at Italian exhibition brings unwanted attention to NatGeo veteran Steve McCurry’s work


posted Monday, May 9, 2016 at 4:00 PM EDT

Renowned National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry finds himself in a bit of a controversy right now due to some rather poor Photoshop work done by someone on his staff.

Steve McCurry currently has more than 250 of his photographs on display at Le Venaria Reale in Italy until September 25th and an Italian photographer, Paolo Viglione, visited the show. While at the show, impressed by the large prints but curious about their unusual colors, Paolo looked more closely -- and noticed that there was evidence of a poor Photoshop job in one of McCurry's images.

He decided to write a blog post about his discovery, but later removed it, concerned that it was being used to attack McCurry. Subsequently, he replaced it after realizing that the story's spread was now inevitable, and that by removing the post, it had simply been replaced by speculation that was perhaps even more damaging.

The image in question, as seen on Paolo's blog.

After Paolo wrote the original blog post, McCurry came under fire as other people started searching for more Photoshop evidence throughout the well-known photographer's site. You can view additional images that were found by PetaPixel in their article about the situation. PetaPixel reached out to McCurry and received a lengthy response, which you can read in full here. The gist of it is that McCurry, while originally a photojournalist, now considers himself to be more of a visual storyteller. While he tries to do as much of the reviewing and supervision of the handling of his work as he can, he is busy and occasionally images are printed and shipped without his having seen them. In the case of the print in the Italian show, this is what happened according to McCurry.

In an Italian interview, McCurry also said that the lab technician responsible for the mistake is no longer working for him. However, McCurry's response to PetaPixel does not address the other images that they found that have had elements removed from them. McCurry has said elsewhere that he thinks making tonal changes to areas of an image is okay, but moving elements is not, so it is unclear who is responsible for the removed elements in the other images.

And an up-close look provided by Paolo.

One thing seems clear, however: There is a difference between doing work for photojournalistic purposes, such as for National Geographic, and doing work for personal artistic reasons. A photographer should not be held to the same standard of editing for their personal work as they should be when presenting images for journalistic purposes. Reporting a news story and telling your own tale are not the same thing, and Steve McCurry ought to be allowed to do both, supposing that he in fact is responsible for the removing elements in any of his images.

While he finds himself embroiled in controversy, there's no reason to suspect that McCurry has willfully deceived anyone here. Readers, what do you think about this situation? What do you think about removing elements in photos?

(Seen via PetaPixel