Internet forum unveils the compulsive photoshopping of an award-winning nature photographer

It started on August 26th when Gunnar Glöersen, a wildlife management expert for the Swedish Hunting Association (Svenska Jägareförbundet) received a call from a journalist – Jan Henricson of  Svensk Jakt – asking him to comment on the authenticity of a suspicious photograph of a lynx taken by Terje Hellesö. Hellesö is a well-known nature photographer who received the 2010 Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s Nature Photographer of the Year award.

On the 26th Glöersen wrote in his blog about his suspicions not only about this photograph but also of other wildlife photographs by Hellesö. His blog post was taken up in the on-line Flashback forum which exploded with all Hellesö’s photographs being investigated by the on-line community (and the knowledge and expertise and ingenuity with the amateur investigators is truly impressive). In the 2 weeks since Glöersen’s blog post the Flashback forum post has had over 800,000 readers.

Last Monday (5th September) The Local reported:

Photographer Terje Hellesö, recipient of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency’s Nature Photographer of the Year award, has been reported to police after admitting that he manipulated a number of his pictures of predatory animals. …

“Doesn’t this lynx in the July greenery have a winter furr? How about the lynx that’s reflected in the pool, is it walking in the air or on land, and can you really see the paws in that angle?”, Glöersen wrote in a blog post dated August 26th. Glöersen also questioned the authenticity of the picture, and decided to examine more of Hellesö’s work. Based on his wildlife expertise, he began to suspect that Hellesö’s alleged accomplishments were simply too good to be true.

Among Hellesö’s claims called into question by Glöersen are reports that the nature photographer had seen 150 lynx in nine months, when Glöersen himself had only seen 15 in 52 years. Glöersen also questioned Hellesö’s claim to have photographed a raccoon dog from a meter away, in an area where they’re not even supposed to exist.

In a debate between Glöersen and Hellesö on Sveriges Radio (SR) on August 30th, Hellesö at first denied the allegations that he had doctored his images. “No no no, of course not. Not under any circumstances,” he said. However, four days later, on September 3rd, he changed admitted the forgeries to his wife. “I didn’t know about this myself. I’m still in shock,” Malin Hellesö told SR. …..

On Monday, Tommy Berglund, an inspector and wildlife tracker at the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland, reported Hellesö to the police for fraud.
While he filed the report as a private citizen, rather than as a part of his official duties, Berglund is nevertheless concerned about the affect Hellesö’s claims have meant for local wildlife management efforts. “Raccoon dogs are among the worst carriers of rabies,” Berglund told newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN). “Tons of resources have been used in vain to find wildcats and raccoon dogs that don’t exist.”

Because of the time and money they’ve spent, and the fact that numerous concerned people have called the Administrative Board, Berglund thinks this is an important issue, and certainly a matter for the police.

But what is truly impressive is the speed and skill with which the investigative work was done by the on-line community and in a way which I think the main stream media would not dare to do. The depth of knowledge and skill available on-line is now beyond the ability and the competence of the main stream media.  In general Hellesö seems to have used stock pictures of wildlife from the internet, flipped them, resized them and then inserted them into forest landscapes which he presumably had photographed himself. The following are animations of how just some of the pictures were manipulated by Hellesö:

The award winning Lynx picture

Another lynx in the woods

And Lynx No.3

A raccoon dog in the wild

Update: The latest count gives at least 19 manipulated (Terjade) photographs.

Hellesö’s career as a wild-life photographer is over but he probably has a new book and a new career in the field of “How I fooled the world”!

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3 Responses to “Internet forum unveils the compulsive photoshopping of an award-winning nature photographer”

  1. Hellesö apologises -sort of – and only further antagonises his Flashback nemesis « The k2p blog Says:

    […] 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 […]

  2. Raccoon Dogs Skinned Alive in China « Protection4animals's Blog Says:

    […] Internet forum unveils the compulsive photoshopping of an award-winning nature photographer […]

  3. Searchable data base for Climategate 2 emails already online « The k2p blog Says:

    […] investigative capabilities of the on-line community when engaged is quite formidable (as I have remarked on earlier). LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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