An award-winning photojournalist named Souvid Datta was accused by PetaPixel of using Photoshop to insert images from the work of Mary Ellen Mark into his photographs of sex workers in Sonagachi, Calcutta. After these allegations were posted on the site, he took down his social media and official website. Now, he’s resurfaced to give an interview to Time magazine about the allegations: and admits they were all true.
No seriously. He used Photoshop (which he refers to in a gee-wiz way claiming he was new to and excited by the software when he did it in late 2013, as if that was very long ago or even excuses anything) to lift entire people into his work. He said it was a damning mistake and a product of youth, that the image in Mark’s work spoke to him and he uploaded the doctored image onto his blog without accreditation or indication that it was doctored. He basically goes about in circles for a bit before getting to the point, which he does make explicitly: he lied.
It’s extra damning because he’s a man plagiarising while creating photographs of women in such a particularly important and sensitive framework. Plus of course, funny business from photographers always feels a bit extra shocking because photographs are so closely associated with truth and proof in our minds: it hurts our sensibilities a bit more than when other kinds of artists plagiarise because we’re so uncomfortable with the idea that what our eyes are seeing might not be true.
It doesn’t end with just that one photo, by the way: in the interview, he goes on to say that’s he’s plagiarised from the works of other photographers too, like Daniele Volpe, Hazel Thomson and Raul Irani, and that several of his works, including those he created in different parts of China and South America, contain doctored elements. Boy, bye.