Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
14 September 2017

Eduardo Martins, the celebrated war photographer who didn’t really exist

BBC World Service tells the story of a fake.

By Antonia Quirke

“This is a cautionary tale,” warned the presenter Megha Mohan during a report about the 32-year-old Brazilian war photographer Eduardo Martins (10 September, 10.20am). Martins has 125,000 followers on Instagram; his work documenting conflict zones has appeared around the world, including the Wall Street Journal – but it seems Martins isn’t a war photographer. Nobody knows what he is. Not a person exists who has actually met “Eduardo Martins” – someone who likes to give boastful and strictly online interviews about surviving cancer and saving children from Molotov cocktails.

For several years (until a journalist in the Lebanon started asking questions) Martins passed off other photographers’ work as his own, using chasteningly basic mirror-imaging techniques to elude plagiarism software. All of which has been reported across the world – but never so Bill & Ted-ishly as here. “I was, like, daaang!” frowned a photographer whose images had been nicked. “This dude used a cheap-ass Photoshop trick to hijack several years of my work.”

Martins had also appropriated, as personal ID, the Facebook profile photographs of a Cornish surfer called Max – hair shaggy as a chrysanthemum, above a lovely salty tan. The real Max himself popped up, a one-man Leveson Inquiry: “So I thought, yeah, that’s weird.”

A war photographer! Phwoar! Think Nick Nolte in Under Fire crossed with John Malkovich in The Killing Fields – plus Patrick Swayze in Point Break. It quickly became clear that Martins (or whoever) had done all of this basically to meet girls. Like a heron snacking on dozing trout, he had six women – young, successful, professional – seemingly involved in intense “romantic online relationships” with him.

Syria, Iraq, the scooped and blasted villages of Afghanistan – mere window-dressing, effectively the velvet chaise across which he’d been lolling. “What can we learn from all this?” demanded Mohan, like an amiable TV detective who must wait until the last episode to get shrewd. Ga! Too late. Eduardo has disappeared. He’s taking “a year-long break to travel to Australia, and wants to be left in peace”. I picture him relaxed, on a fully licensed flight. 

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy