Photojournalist Souvid Datta admits to doctoring photos

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As covered over at PetaPixel, award-winning photographer Souvid Datta has admitted he doctored images, stealing the work of legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark. The accusations are focussed on an image taken in 2014 that depicts three women, one of which it has been revealed was copied-and-pasted from a 1978 image by Mark.

Datta's doctored image from his series
Datta's doctored image from his series "In the shadows of Kolkata"

In an interview with TIME magazine overnight, Datta has admitted he did indeed doctor that photo, as well as “appropriating” other photographers’ work as his own.

Datta has received many top awards and grants in the photo industry, from organisations including PDN, the Pulitzer Center, Getty, and Magnum.

Datta says the photo in question came about while he was documenting sex industry violence in Kolkata, India. After following a girl into a brothel, Datta was dismayed that the girl’s mentor, Asma, asked not to be photographed.

The original image by Mary Ellen Mark. She spent three months befriending the prostitutes who worked on a single long street in Bombay for her series in 1978.
The original image by Mary Ellen Mark. She spent three months befriending the prostitutes who worked on a single long street in Bombay for her series in 1978.

The photographer says he came across Mary Ellen Mark’s photo, and decided to Photoshop Mark’s subject into his photo to see what it would have looked like had Asma agreed to be photographed.

“The damning mistake came in uploading that image onto my blog,” Datta tells TIME. “I did this without accreditation or acknowledgment that it had been tampered with and that it included elements of [Mark’s] image. I wrote the caption as if Asma herself was in this image, not a woman from someone else’s work. In effect, I lied.”

Datta says his original intent wasn’t to profit from the photo but instead to develop his post-processing skills. But the lure of “validation and exposure” eventually led him to publish the photo in an essay with an untruthful caption.

He also admited to TIME that during this 'dishonest phase of his career,' he stitched, cloned, and combined others photos. Datta also shared other photographers work as his ow, including colleagues Daniele Volpe, Hazel Thompson and Raul Irani, and lied in order to conceal those actions before entering them in photo competitions. But for his latest work “as a serious photojournalist,” Datta says he gave his “utmost to uphold principles of respect, journalistic insight, compassion, perspective and perseverance.”

In 2015, Datta shared two of photographer Daniele Volpe’s photos as his own on Facebook. He has since closed his Facebook, Instagram and website as the story broke yesterday.

“I cannot begin to say how much I regret having acted in this abhorrent, short-sighted and irresponsible manner,” Datta tells TIME. “From here on, I do not know what will happen to me or the stories I have followed. I fear above all that they may remain untold.”

“My credibility has been fundamentally challenged, and I understand the serious implications of that in an industry where credibility counts for everything.”

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