Posts Tagged ‘Flashback’

Hellesö apologises – sort of – and only further antagonises his Flashback nemesis

September 13, 2011

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The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency which had named him as the Nature Photographer of the Year 2010 has now withdrawn their award since their jury have now come to the conclusion that some of his his photographs even before 2010 were probably manipulated.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the prize money (about 15,000 kronor or $2,500) because they have no regulations about what to do when a prize is withdrawn.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.

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

September 9, 2011

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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