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'Catch Me If You Can': Brazilian fake war photographer may be hiding in Australia

11 September 2017
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In this extraordinary case, a Brazilian man fooled media outlets around the world - as well as his nearly 130,000 Instagram followers, into believing he was a war photographer. It is now believed he may be hiding in Australia.
The Brazilian fake war photographer is not even the man in his profile pictures, who has now been identified by BBC Brazil as 32-year-old British surfer Max Hepworth-Povey. 

The phoney photographer, who fooled established international media companies including Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, Vice, BBC Brazil and image agencies like Getty, has now deleted all his profiles on internet and if his own statements are to be believed, is now 'taking a break' in Australia.

The supposed 32-year-old Eduardo Martins, from São Paulo - not his real identity - has presented himself for the last three years as a United Nations war photographer, shooting events in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Iraq, where he said to have witnessed the battle for Mosul against the Islamic State. 

His now deleted Instagram profile (see below) had over 120 thousand followers, including many well know photographers and the UN itself.

Martins widely distributed photos of his supposed photography work, which were actually photos from other photographers, that he inverted with a horizontal flip, retouching them. In addition, he gave interviews to major media outlets worldwide, telling his story: a leukemia survivor at the young age of 25, a surfer by hobby and a war photographer per vocation.

It is not clear at this point whether 'Martins' was ever paid for any of the photos he provided to a great number of media outlets around the world, including agencies like Getty and Zuma.

Today the identity of the surfer in shown images was discovered as 32-year-old British surfer Max Hepworth-Povey, who on his Twitter profile presents himself as "Chief coffee maker at the @ttridegroup Also writes barely coherent controversial stuff for @wavelengthmag. Solar powered."  

Hepworth-Povey learned that his image was being used by 'Eduardo Martins' through a friend - the editor of a magazine where Max is a contributor. The friend sent him a link with the BBC Brazil's investigative report about the fake war photographer.  

In an interview with BBC Brazil today, Max said "I was relaxing, having some wine, when a friend from Wavelength magazine contacted me saying that someone has stolen my identity in a kind of a prank on internet."
"I was relaxing, having some wine, when a friend from Wavelength magazine contacted me saying that someone has stolen my identity in a kind of a prank on internet."

Martins was first publicly exposed on 31 August, by war photographer and Waves site columnist Fernando Costa Netto, who had an online friendship with Eduardo Martins and had published, a month earlier, an article interviewing Eduardo Martins, telling his story and showcasing his "exceptional talent."

Fernando Costa Netto then received phone calls from large media organizations who were suspicious that Eduardo Martins was a fake. Costa Netto then, apparently inadvertently, warned his virtual friend 'Martins' on WhatsApp that they distrusted him. He has been much-criticized in social networks for alerting 'Martin' of the brewing story. 

Eduardo Martins then immediately deleted his Instagram account, as well as his webpage on the internet and wrote to Costa Netto:

"I'm in Australia. I've made the decision to spend a year in a van," wrote 'Martins'. 

"I'll delete everything online, including internet. I want to be in peace, we'll see each other when I get back. For anything, write me at A big hug. I'm going to delete the zap. God be with you. A hug."

The photographer Ignacio Aronovich, from São Paulo, had never heard of Eduardo Martins but, curious, he read the article of Fernando Costa Netto.  Aronovich was the one who identified Eduardo Martins' trick.

He noticed in one set of his photos, which portrayed other photographers in the picture, that there were shutter button on the left side of the camera, when almost all models of camera available feature the shutter button on the right.

This pointed to the fact that the photos were inverted, mirrored, and it was with that they were able to do a reverse image search to find the true author of some of the photos: the American Daniel C. Britt, who lives in Turkey.

Ignacio Aronovich posted on his Facebook page this comparison below between the original and the manipulated images:

Eduardo Martins supposed photos still appeared in Getty's image bank until last Saturday at a price of US $575 each. The agency now removed all of Eduardo's material from circulation.
As recently as one month ago, BBC Brazil was also deceived, publishing a long profile of Eduardo Martins based around his fraudulent story. 

A translated extract from the now-deleted story:

"'People need to see this reality,' says Brazilian photographer who captured the refugee drama in Iraq."

"The horror and suffering lived by Iraqi people were captured by the lens of 32 year old São Paulo photographer Eduardo Martins."
Now though, they have led the charge in exposing him, on Friday, September 1, publishing an extensive investigative report denouncing the war photographer as a fake.

The investigative report was filed by a team of journalists, including Natasha Ribeiro, a collaborator of BBC Brazil who lives in the Middle East.

She sounded the alarm when approached on the internet by Eduardo. According to the BBC Brazil report, she distrusted what he was telling her. 
"No one, among authorities and non-governmental organizations in Syria or Iraq, has ever seen or heard about Eduardo Martins."

"The distrust increased when, in Iraq, amid the war scene that Eduardo claimed to portray, Brazilian journalists realized that he was not known there," BBC Brazil reported.

"No one, among authorities and non-governmental organizations in Syria or Iraq, has ever seen or heard about Eduardo Martins."

BBC Brazil's facebook post of the investigative report has now more than 13,000 likes, 2.800 comments and 4,200 shares.

BBC Brazil has been highly praised on social media for it's attitude in acknowledging that it was deceived and exposing the case extensively.

A small parallel controversy has arisen in the comments though due to the fact that BBC Brazil, upon recognising its mistake, still characterised Eduardo Martins as "young, blond and handsome."

Everyone wants to know who the real guy is, but it may be the case that the trail has already gone cold. 

BBC Brazil and Vice didn't pay Eduardo Martins for the photos they used in their articles about him.

There is no confirmation from Getty or Zuma agencies that they have paid the fake photographer, with bank account details.

As far as is known, nobody has seen him, personally or on live video chats.

BBC Brazil's investigation uncovered five women who were his virtual girlfriends and none of them had met him.

Eduardo Martins webpage, now deleted, was hosted anonymously with a company in Florida.

Is it possible that he committed "the perfect crime"?  

At the moment no one knows where he is.  But, if we're to believe him, he could currently be taking break here in Australia, in the back of a van somewhere.