Description: CHECK OUT THIS CRAZY STORY OF AN INTERNET CON MAN! | This story travels from Sao Paulo to Paris, New York City, and Fiji and even has a few trips through the Middle East and brushes with ISIS.
In this video, we will explore the story of the Eduardo Martins photo journalist fraud on an international scale that fooled huge media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
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Tags: Eduardo Martins, war photographer, wartime photographer, conflict photographer, con man, fraud, catfishing, fake photographer, photojournalism, united nations, sao paulo, brazil, brasil, photography documentary, photography video, wall street journal, new york times, bbc, bbc brasil, VICE, VICE news, tutvid, LSID
Every once in awhile something happens that is so unbelievable, you can hardly believe that it’s true.
Let me tell you about Eduardo Martins. He’s a 32-year-old Brazilian conflict and war photographer from Sao Paulo who has traveled the world capturing photos of destruction, poverty, death, and the humanity that springs forth from those situations.
Eduardo is best known for his photojournalism covering the conflict in Mosul, Iraq while the city was still under control by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, those nasty guys that we call ISIS. He has been published by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Getty, VICE, and many more media outlets and he’s also grown a following of greater than 120,000 followers on Instagram.
His story is too good to be true, from age 18 to 25, he suffered from leukemia and you could say that the seven year battle with cancer woke him up to life and made him realize he wanted something more, something bigger than just himself. In 2014 he moved to Paris and then in 2015 to New York, where he still lives today.
He traveled the world surfing everywhere he could. From Fiji and Sri Lanka to Hawaii and Indonesia, he surfed what seemed like every destination in the world. He even said in an interview with Waves magazine (a Brazilian surf publication) that “Sometimes I make a work trip to a place that has waves and try to find a way to surf, such as in Africa. I always go to Mozambique and I enjoy surfing. Even when sick and cheated by chemotherapy, when I took time in the sessions, I tried to go to the sea. Surfing is my passion and it’s inside me, I do not live without the sea.” he even has a story of how he almost died surfing near French Polynesia and that his friends would refer to him as a sort of surfing kamikaze.
After getting a job with the United Nations, he traveled to the Middle East where he had his first experience with conflict photography when in 2015 he rode with the Free Syrian Army for weeks as they did battle with Bashar Al Assad. He said that this was when he found what he really wanted to do, he wanted to be a conflict and wartime photographer. He always seemed to be drawn to the people and the humanity in his photography. He once threw down his camera to help a boy who’d been hit by a Molotov Cocktail while working in Iraq and he was grazed by a bullet outside of Aleppo. It was soon after this that he went to the Gaza Strip and spent months documenting the conflict there and developing deep relationships with the Palestinian people.
The problem with this story is that it’s all a big lie (fade map to black and white). Eduardo Martins is the part real life, part imagined persona in a great modern photojournalistic fraud where the real perpetrator is still unknown.
By stealing the identity of the Instagram user, Max Hepworth-Povey and Photoshopping himself into wartime scenes, Martins was able to build a facade of a man who was really on the ground documenting the war in the Middle East.
By stealing the photographs of real photojournalists, most notably of whom was a US-based photographer named Daniel C. Britt, Martins was able to establish a body of work he claimed as his own and this crafty bastard even went so far as altering and flipping the orientation of photographs to ensure that the images would not be found by software meant to find plagiarized photos.
Martins used these photos to appear in multiple publications like VICE, The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, BBC Brasil, sold them through agencies like Getty Photo, Zuma Press, and an outfit called nurphoto, and he also used the images and stories to amass a huge following on Instagram.
His scheme got blown up in June of 2017, when he contacted the BBC and offered his story and photos for free, but he told them that he could not talk on the phone on account of the fact that he was in Mosul on the front lines and was afraid of the ISIS presence and would only send audio recordings of himself.
(create series of slides showing the user giving photos to media offer money create trail)As a side note, it seems that he always offered his photos for free. It seems that even if huge media companies like VICE and the BBC, etc… had insisted on paying the photographer for his work instead of taking free images, they would have established some kind of paper trail via that business transaction and maybe we would know who this fraud is. Or maybe it would have prevented it all to begin with. In addition, it would be interesting to know if agencies who had taken stolen photos (such as Getty, Nurphoto, and Zuma) have sold any of the stolen photography and where the funds went. Certainly, a photographer like Daniel Britt deserves the funding for his risk of life and limb as well as the skill and hard work put forth to capture the images that he did.
Now here is where the real hero of the story is introduced. Suspicions about Eduardo Martins arose after a Brazilian journalist named Natasha Ribeiro who was living in Lebanon was not so sure that this guy’s story held any water and those suspicions only rose higher when she realized that fellow Brazilian journalists (real ones) in Iraq and Syria had never heard of this guy.
Martins had also claimed to spend time with an Iraqi group called Peshmerga in a piece written by VICE titled “On the Front with Peshmerga” (which has since been retracted), but this claim was disputed by two Brazilian journalists who actually were with Peshmerga and had never heard of Eduardo Martins.
In an attempt to confirm his identity, BBC Brasil asked Martins to re-confirm his identity which he did using his favorite means of communication–audio message by way of the WhatsApp messenger. He reiterated that he worked for the UN, specifically as a humanitarian and also that he worked to help organize refugee camps. An attempt was made to find his credentials at the office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees, but there was nothing to be found. Surprise, surprise.
At the same time that this was unfolding, a photographer named Fernando Costa Netto was attempting to work with Martins and set up a gallery exhibition of his work in Sao Paulo, Brazil to display photographs of Brazilian soldiers in conflict, but soon lost contact with Martins and feared that he had been kidnapped by ISIS forces. Netto reached out to fellow Brazilian journalists in Iraq which was when he learned of the suspicions surrounding Eduardo Martins’ identity. In the meantime, Martins reconnected with Netto and told him that he just had a small problem with internet connection.
To add another wrinkle to an already bizarre story, BBC Brasil located six different women who all claim to be Martins’ girlfriend and although none of them had ever met him personally, they were connected by social media.
The guy Fernando Costa Netto who was setting up the gallery exhibition in Brasil, he reached out to Martins at the end of August 2017 and told him of the suspicions swirling around his identity. Almost immediately, the daredevil surfer, Mr. afraid-of-nothing-but-cancer, Eduardo Martins deleted his Instagram account and sent one last message via Whatsapp proclaiming that he had jetted off to Australia where he was going to spend a year in a van and would be cutting off everything including the internet and Instagram. And just like that, the exposed con man fell on his proverbial digital sword and we may never know who he or she really is.
Does the human nature within us desire to believe fantastical stories in an effort to find our own superhero? In this case, the dashing young guy from Brazil who has beaten cancer, who sees the humanity even in a conflict zone, who seems to want to help the people he runs into everywhere he goes. It’s times like this that you really have to give it up for the guy and girls out there doing the real-deal journalism and photography the people on the ground in the most grueling and dangerous places in the world. People like To piggyback on the hard work and risk these other people take seems to be the greatest offense of all. (show a few pics here)
I tend to think that this had to have been done by somebody who understands the industry, somebody who wanted the fame and pretended social status, but somebody who did not care much about money. It is a strange case indeed. I’d love to hear what you think about this story. Please share your thoughts.
One more thing, despite the public not being able to identify the con man, he did accidentally share a single picture of himself after all…