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The Hoax Photo Archive — Photo Fakery Throughout History
Time Period: 1940-1959
The Peppered Moth. (1955) The many biology textbooks that used this image did not reveal that the moths were dead and glued to the bark. More…
Dr. Schweitzer in the Congo. (1954) More than thirty years after its initial publication, this famous photo by W. Eugene Smith was discovered to be two photos composited together. More…
Venusian Scoutcraft. (December 13, 1952) What George Adamski claimed was a photo of a UFO looks suspiciously like a lampshade with ping pong balls glued to it. More…
The Kiss at City Hall. (April 1, 1950) Robert Doisneau steadfastly maintained that this photo of a couple kissing on a street in Paris was a spontaneous scene, fortuitously caught on film. Until he was sued by two people who claimed to be the couple in the scene. Doisneau then confessed he had staged the scene using professional models, who were not the people suing him. More…
Miss Perfect Profile. (ca. 1950) The head of a modeling agency added creative captions, such as "Miss Perfect Profile," to the photos of his models in order to get newspapers to print them. More…
The Tydings Affair. (1950) As payback for a political slight, the staff of Sen. Joseph McCarthy created a photo that appeared to show Sen. Millard Tydings (right) chatting with the head of the American Communist Party (left) — although in reality the two men had not met. They released the photo shortly before a 1950 senate race in which Tydings was running, and it is believed to have contributed to Tydings' defeat in that election. More…
Red Army Flag Over Reichstag. (May 2, 1945) This photo was both staged and doctored in an attempt to create a Soviet version of the Americans' Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima image. More…
The Master Race. (May 8, 1943) The May 8, 1943 cover of the British illustrated magazine Parade showed an unkempt, dour-looking German soldier with the satirical caption, "Master Race." But the man wasn't actually a German soldier. The photo was actually a piece of British government propaganda. The photographer later admitted the man was "the ugliest Arab they could find in the streets of Cairo... whom they dressed up in a sort of uniform." More…
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax. (August 1942) The U.S. Army press office released pictures supposedly showing "secret markers" placed by fifth-columnists in rural areas of the east coast to guide Nazi bombers toward military targets. But it turned out the "markers" had been investigated by the Army, and had been judged to be entirely innocent patterns on the ground. The release of the photos and the claim of their sinister meaning was attributed to "over-zealous army press-agentry." More…
The Commissar Vanishes. (ca. 1940) The original version of this photo showed Nikolai Yezhov, the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs, walking beside Stalin (to his left) along the Moscow-Volga Canal. But after Yezhov fell out of political favor, Soviet censors deleted him from the photo. This photo has now become one of the most famous examples of how totalitarian regimes doctor images in their attempts to rewrite history. More…

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.