UPDATE! Hellesö says on his website that he has removed 96 pictures – presumably all manipulated. 93 were pictures of lynxes, 2 of badgers and one of a raccoon dog.
Terje Hellesö, an award winning nature photographer, has been revealed to be a massive fraud and a cheat. Many of his photographs have been manipulated with stock images of wildlife from the internet having been inserted into landscapes with many “artistic” effects. The skilful detective work in finding his manipulations and the source of the original images has come from the on-line community of the Swedish Flashback forum. They have also put together a web site where all the manipulations discovered have been posted. At least some 20 pictures have been manipulated and another 10 or so are suspicious. But Hellesö has removed all his old images from his web-site and it is unclear how many images he may have manipulated and when he first started his fraudulent career. It seems to go back at least 3 or 4 years and it could be that the start of his manipulations coincided with his use of digital images or perhaps with his learning how to use Photoshop. A new vocabulary has emerged for the fraudulent manipulation of images and based on his name as an adjective – a “terjade” picture has now become an accepted word-form!!!
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency which had named him as the Nature Photographer of the Year 2010 has now withdrawn their award since their jury have now come to the conclusion that some of his his photographs even before 2010 were probably manipulated. Their press release (in Swedish) is here. However they are not asking him to return the prize money (about 15,000 kronor or $2,500) because they have no regulations about what to do when a prize is withdrawn. But, as some of the Flashback readers have pointed out, there should then be no hindrance in asking for the prize money to be returned precisely because there are no governing regulations.
But now Hellesö has posted a long, rambling, self-serving, self-pitying sort of apology on his website – which seems to be no apology at all but instead a form of damage control and an attempt to take charge of the narrative and to resurrect himself. He does not reveal how many pictures he has manipulated – perhaps thousands – and when he started his nefarious career. He does not offer to recompense the thousands who paid the expensive fees he charged for attending his photography courses. He does not offer to compensate the organisations who paid him dearly for including his images in exhibitions and publications and often lost money in their enterprises. He does not apologise for the heart-rending stories he invented from thin air about the circumstances surrounding his encounters with the imaginary wildlife that he was supposed to have photographed.
His “apology” is much too long, too badly written and much too self-serving to be reproduced or translated in full. But there are some sections which reveal his intentions quite clearly and that his remorse is no more than a micron or two deep.
I ask for pardon because I made a number of photomontages in which I gave you all
a very different picture than the reality I was trying to convey. This I will never ever repeat in the same way. If in the future I manipulate images, I will reveal exactly how I do so. I never ever again will have a desire to cheat anyone. Or of having to lie to hide the truth. …. I hope with all my heart that you can forgive me, and that maybe I will come to get a second chance from you. …
It begs the question if he is admitting that his previous manipulations were intended to cheat people (as they did).
I will come to speak publicly about this in different places, in ways you will discover later. I will share much of that here in this blog as well.
Indeed!! A new “show and tell” career perhaps.
I would also say sorry to the Environmental Protection Agency who gave me the award
“Nature Photographer 2010″. The pressure that you had to endure in this, is not something I would have wished for you. I know you did not know anything about my current lynx project when you gave me this award, and I have read your reasoning
numerous times. I understand that you now choose to withdraw the award from me, , but I will keep in mind your justification (for the award) for myself so that I can draw some strength for tomorrow. Over time, I hope that my pictures – including here on this blog - will be some form of redress for the choice you originally made.
He promises that his future pictures will be available for scrutiny and for expert comments which will be published on his blog. It seems to be just an attempt to create a way for his fan club to post nice things about him.
He clearly sees his resurrection – phoenix-like – from the ashes of his present career. He has been accused of being a narcissist, an ego-maniac, and much worse. But his “apology” has only served to anatagonise the on-line community even further and they are now mobilised and energised to scrutinise everything he has ever done.
But to me he sounds like Tricky Dicky did in 1974 – and I am old enough to remember his self-serving TV performances! An attempt to control the narrative of his own demise.