UPDATED: Sourcing pictures in the internet age

CTV News picked up on an amusing story that developed on Twitter Wednesday night about Manitoba Government mailer gone wrong.

The interesting twitter exchange started with journalist Steve Lambert posted the following:

NDP mailer closeupIs this a trick question? Why does it have to be in Manitoba? Well, because …

MailerThat structure in the bottom left corner probably does not look familiar to you. There is nothing quite like it in Winnipeg, and there are few other cities in Manitoba that could afford to build something extravagant like that. However, this is a mailer from the Manitoba NDP boasting about creating opportunities for young Manitobans, so surely those students must be in Manitoba, no?

Well no. The answer is no. The students are not in Manitoba. Journalist Bart Kives recognized the structure in the photo as the Vasca da Gama Tower in Lisbon Portugal:

This got me thinking about how a photo of supposed students lounging in Portugal found it’s way into Manitoba NDP promotional material.

There are some sites out there with free stock photos, or sometimes artists who post their work to http://www.deviantart.com give others permission to use it. There are also a great many stock photo sites where you can buy photos of literally anything … including fake students in Portugal.

Luckily the internet, while opening us up to the world, also gives us some sleuthing abilities. indeed, Google lets you search images, not just by word but by image!

Searching on the following …

LISBON KIDS… I was able to find what appears to be the original source: a Spanish online photo store called 123RF where for $100 you can download a high-res copy of the picture.

But of course once a photo gets purchased it can end up anywhere on the internet and be downloaded for free. Places like here and here and here.

Please note: I AM NOT SAYING THE NDP STOLE THIS PICTURE. It just seems odd … I know the provincial government often hires professionals like McKim Group to produce material for them, but this is far too sloppy for them. They wouldn’t make the mistake of using a picture that is so obviously not from Manitoba.

More likely a low-rung staffer was tasked with putting this together, but why would they go to a photo web site that’s all in Spanish when there are hundreds of English ones? This is what makes me think they just found this image using a simple google search and downloaded.

Even if the purchase was legally purchased, it is still a very amusing thing that the government is promoting programs to help young Manitobans by showing pictures of guys in Portugal. I suppose it could have been worse ..


A person could have a lot of fun with this sort of thing, like creating your own NDP ad using other photos of the same kids …

Filmon Students.. and then there was this hilarious tweet from James Hope Howard:

James TweetCome up with your own ideas and email them to aroundthistown *at* shaw *dot* ca. The winner gets some free coasters that I’ve been trying to give away for years, or a pint of beer! Your choice.


A new submission:

Darren, Cameron and other students from Altona Seconday School take in the sights and sounds of the Morris Stampede

Darren, Cameron and other students from Altona Seconday School take in the sights and sounds of the Morris Stampede


6 thoughts on “UPDATED: Sourcing pictures in the internet age

  1. When someone writes an post he/she maintains the idea of a user
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  3. Honestly, I don’t see a real big difference between using staged pictures of kids in Manitoba (which would be the most probable alternative) versus using stock photos of kids from around the globe. The tower ruins the false realism of the photo, but it takes a detailed eye to notice.

    One of the more egregious cases of the ethics of online photos is this:


    • I wouldn’t dare compare this to the Parson’s case. It’s just an interesting thing to spend an evening blogging about. There are much more important issues to look at provincially.

    • You don’t see the difference in using a staged photo of kids from another country on promotion materials for a local political candidate when she is trying to convey a message that she is going to do great things the children in her constituency? It would be on thing if you could not tell where the photo was taken, quite another when it is obvious that they are not even in Manitoba. Politicians already are tainted due to their habit of fabricating the truth, I would think they would want to be sure to appear honest when they have nothing to gain by misrepresenting themselves.

      The real point is that somebody screwed up in a pretty stupid way by not checking to ensure that there were no clear references to the local the picture was taken in. They would have been even smarter to use a picture that was at least taken in a location the members of her actual constituents would have been able to recognize, thus making the message more direct and relatable to their own lives.

      It was just a stupid and lazy mistake. And I don’t believe for a second that it is candid shot, it is staged just like any other stock photo (most stock photos use paid models for such close up shots for legal and licensing purposes). Also, what Derick is pointing out in this picture is of a totally different sort, and a clearly different degree of error than the example you point out. I realize that you don’t outright state that they are, but it can be read as it being implied.

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