Breaking

A Turkish official taunting starving Armenians with bread, 1915


In 2005 Oxford University Press published Donald Bloxham's The Great Game of Genocide. Imperialism, Nationalism, and the Destruction of the Ottoman Armenians.

The book consisted of nine photographs printed on glossy paper. Eight photos were credited. is not one. It shows a man wearing a tie and a buttonless jacket standing in front of a circle of children and a clear adult holding something in his hand. The caption read: "A Turkish officer taunting starving Armenians with bread".

A cursory glance is enough to show that there is something wrong with the picture. One side of the man's jacket is darker than the other. A torn line clearly runs between the two halves. The wall in the background suddenly disappears into a blank white space behind the man standing.

A child lying on the ground is raising a weak hand. If it is extended to the full length it will fall below his knees. His barely visible second hand and wrist seem quite thick by comparison.

The little boy sitting to the right of the man standing appears to be holding something in his hand but it is impossible to tell what it may have been.

Suspicious, the picture was taken to a photographic analyst. It took ten minutes to conclude that it was not a 'photograph', but a photographic soup, composed of fragments and fragments taken from other photographs.

The analyst concluded that the man's right hand does not belong to the body. It came from somewhere else. His right leg seems to have completely disappeared.

The boy sitting on the ground to the right of the man is not holding anything. The fraudster did not pay enough attention to cut the paper around the fingers in the photograph from which his figure was taken.

The person in the caption clearly cannot be a 'Turkish officer' as there was no Turkey at the time the picture was apparently taken (ie during or shortly after World War I).

The photographic analyst explicitly stated that no Ottoman member or civil servant would wear a buttonless jacket over a shirt with a collar and tie.

He will be wearing a collarless shirt that will be buttoned up to the neck. Almost certainly (certainly for a photo) he would have a fez on his head, and it was unlikely that a Turk member would pose for such a picture anyway.

Oxford University Press was informed that 'Photograph' was a forgery. The existing stock of the book was destroyed but the picture was put in a new printing with the following caption: 'This picture claims to be an Ottoman officer taunting Armenians with bread.

It is a spurious, combination of elements from two (or more) different photographs: propaganda stakes on both sides of the genocide issue required a display, with the latter evidence of all forms of manipulation for political purposes. Were. The photograph was also included when the book was first published but was then assumed to be genuine.

It was first used in Gérard Chaliand and Yves Ternon's Le Genocide des Arménions (1980), which shows that the former usage is no substitute for a rigorous investigation of the emergence of a photograph – and in the absence of a clear origin, a subtle for detailed examination. The picture itself

This is a cautionary tale for historians, many of whom are better trained in the examination and use of written sources than in the evaluation of photographic evidence. The publishers and authors are grateful that they brought the fraud to their attention.

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