A book featuring a collection of photos of Saigon from the late 19th century has been found to have used a doctored photo made as a joke six years ago, revealed the photo’s original editor on Thursday.
The photobook, titled 150 Nam Hinh Bong Saigon (150 Years of Saigon), consists of photos of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, taken between 1883 and 2013.
The photos were collected by Tam Thai, who also authored captions for some of them.
The book was published by the Tre (Youth) Publishing House in August 2015, but it was only revealed yesterday that one of the photos had been heavily photoshopped.
On page 268, a joke version of a famous photo by Dutch photojournalist Hubert van Es that captured people climbing up a ladder onto a U.S. helicopter from a Saigon rooftop on April 29, 1975 to flee Vietnam was used instead of the original.
The edited photo captured the same evacuation scene, but this time a person on top of the roof is seen kicking out the ladder with evacuees falling to the ground.
Tam Thai captions the photo as “With too many evacuees climbing on, the makeshift ladder was kicked off the roof. In 1990, the photojournalist who took the original photo returned to Vietnam, and said that he ‘would never forget that moment’.”
The original (above) and the doctored photo printed in the book
On Thursday, Truong Huyen Duc, a Ho Chi Minh City-based designer, claimed on his Facebook that the ‘ladder kicking’ picture is in fact a version he “photoshopped just for fun” back in 2010.
“I never imagined there would be a day when my ‘work’ was used as a historical document. Should I ask for a copyright fee for this?” he wrote in the lengthy Facebook post.
Duc added that it is no big deal to see his work used without his permission, but “what is more ridiculous is the way the author captions the photo.”
While Tam Thai describes the picture as a man kicked the ladder full of evacuees, Duc said he had in fact added the 'kicker' to the original photo of Hubert van Es using the famous Internet meme “This is Sparta kick,” a type of kick based on the movie 300.
As proof, Duc attached a higher resolution version of the joke photo, clearly showing the Sparta meme atop the roof, with the ladder photoshopped to break under the evacuees.
The high resolution version of the joke photo
Tam Thai admitted to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper later the same day that he had made a mistake.
“I do not know how to correct the mistake, but let me first apologize to my readers,” the author said.
Tam Thai admitted to downloading the photo from the Internet, without knowing that it was a joke.
“I also felt skeptical of that photo then, as I had never seen it before,” he said.
Still, Tam Thai included the photo in his book. “I wrote the caption on my own,” he added.
Nguyen Minh Nhut, director of the Tre Publishing House, said he had asked all partners to stop circulating the book, pending an investigation to verify the doctored photo.
The famous Internet meme “This is Sparta kick"