A True Story About Bogus Photos of People Making Fake News
Precisely, Miskin’s account carries with it the hard-to-verify promise that his profile photo was created by AI. Bendiksen spent weeks curating his account to become an avid freelance photographer from North Macedonia. He sends friend requests to hundreds of people in the photo business; many responded, including museum photographers and magazine photographers.
When Bendiksen arrived in Perpignan, he was weighed down by his doubling. “I had a stomach ache, but I felt like I needed to document that the screening was actually done,” he said. She avoids the filth of networking, eats alone and hides in her hotel room so as not to be seen by anyone she knows. On the night of his examination, he arrived early and sat in the high area of the bleachers, trying to hide behind his face mask. Wrapping up the Veles video, a series of his bear images are swimming in sight. “My heart jumped right away,” Bendiksen said. “I think bears are the weakest link.”
Bendiksen launched his attack on himself the next day, returning home to Norway, referring to the fact that he would come out before the festival’s main program ended a few days later. He logged into Miskin’s Facebook account and wrote a post accusing himself of paying members to pose fake, declaring that “His project is real fake news !!”
To Bendiksen’s alarm, the post didn’t get much. He reiterated the allegations in a private Facebook group photography, which sparked a discussion in which participants largely accepted Miskin’s claims, but found it slightly wrong to pay for the subjects in the photo. His planned self-immolation to the ruins, Bendiksen spent a few days building a Twitter presence for Miskin, which eventually caught the eagle’s eye at Chesterton, the UK filmmaker who finally called the project. “It’s a huge strain on my shoulder,” Bendiksen said.
He called Magnum’s CEO, Caitlin Hughes, who like almost everyone at the agency is hiding in the dark. She was standing on a busy London street one night with her husband when she learned that the company was publishing a book, and selling copies, which were counterfeit. “I knew he was working on something secretive, but I didn’t expect it,” he said, “It really shook the space of the documentary.” The next day, Magnum posted the interview in which Bendiksen was clean, warning the wider world to take pictures.
Jean-François Leroy, longtime director of Visa Pour L’Image, learned that his famous festival collapsed when Bendiksen’s email emailed a link to the conversation. The revelation leaves a bitter taste. “We’ve known Jonas for years and he’s trusted us,” said Leroy, who said he was “trapped.” The festival sometimes asked photographers to see raw, unedited images, but did not ask Bendiksen, whose work had previously been shown. “I think Jonas should have told me it was fake,” Leroy said, allowing the festival to make a part from exposing and discussing the severity of its effects.
Some taken on Bendiksen’s project have a warmer feel. Julian Montague, an artist and graphic designer in Buffalo, New York, saw Bendiksen post a link to the Magnum conversation on Facebook and read with interest. He bought the book earlier in the year, because of interest in the concept of a fake news industry, and aesthetics of the former eastern bloc. Bendiksen’s images, grainy and with poor lighting, hit him as sensible, not artistic. Now they felt differently – in a way that improved his experience rather than leaving him feeling cheated. “It’s nice to look at the photos again with what you know,” he said. “I admired it as an experiment and piece of art and I agreed with him that it meant a scary future.”
Chesterton, who mobilized Bendiksen’s revelation, called the project “amazing,” but for different reasons. He sees its primary value not as an indicator of the growing momentum of synthetic imagination, but as an introduction to the foibles of the photography industry.