edu_martinsp/Instagram screengrabs

Eduardo Martins: UN war photographer, surfer, fake.

A man who nobody had ever met, with over 100,000 Instagram followers, managed to convince photo agencies and journalists around the world that he was real, and a successful war photographer.

Writing to BBC Brazil via Whatsapp in August, the fictional Eduardo Martins reaffirmed a claim he had been making for years:

I am a humanitarian (volunteer) in the United Nations (UN) field. I work in the organisation of refugee camps.

BBC Brazil, which also used photos purportedly taken by him, has since published the details of its investigation into 'Eduardo Martins' - exposing him as a fake.

Martins allegedly created a romantic back story of a 32-year old Brazillian male who had survived leukaemia as a child, and went on to land a job at the United Nations as a war reporter.

Naturally, the media became interested, and in 2016 Martins gave interviews to VICE and Recount Magazine about his life on the front line of the world's most dangerous conflicts, including Iraq and Syria.

'His photos' were used by photo agencies Zuma and NusFur, and ran in publications such as The Wall Street Journal,Le Monde, and The Telegraph.

Martin also used his Instagram to approach real reporters and photographers, who then recommended his work to media outlets.

Martins reportedly invented fictional journalists, with whom he was 'friends', such as 'Thomaz Griffin', allegedly of the Wall Street Journal. The publication told the BBC they have no record of employing anyone by that name.

He went so far as to 'mourn' the death of another journalist, to whom references online are entirely limited to posts by Martins.

Yet nobody had met Martins in real life.

Natasha Ribeiro - The journalist

A journalist working with the BBC, Natasha Ribeiro, began investigating Martins when he approached BBC Brazil about using his images.

Martin was offering his photos to them for free, but refused to speak by phone. According the BBC he would only send voice messages pre-recorded on Whatsapp.

He claimed he could not speak by phone because of his location: Mosul, Iraq.

Ribeiro, her suspicions raised, found that no NGO, no government, and no other reporters in Mosul had even seen or heard of Martins.

Similarly, the UN High Comissioner for Refugees stated it no record of him.

This was the case repeatedly when Ribeiro and others asked around locations that Martins had claimed to have visited and photographed.

BBC Brazil found six women, who wished to remain anonymous, who had never Martins, but with whom he maintained a relationship online.

Daniel C. Britt - The Real Photojournalist whose photographs were stolen?

BBC Brazil suspected that some of the photos came from American photographer Daniel C. Britt.

Most of the images were mirrored, or had other minor changes made to them, which prevented them from showing up in reverse image searches that would have attributed them to Britt.

Other times the caption and location of the image was altered - the town of Hama photographed by Britt in 2013 was reportedly re-captioned as the town of Azaz, and allegedly claimed by Martins as his own work in 2016.

Similarly, a boy photographed by Britt in 2010 in Kirkuk, Iraq was given the caption 'Palestinian boy screaming after a confrontation with Israeli forces' as part of Martin's 2016 interview with Recount Magazine.

Britt told the BBC

That's what I know: Eduardo Martins has stolen photos from various sites, including my own, and resold through the Getty Images and Zuma Press agencies.

The BBC identified nine photos by Britt used by Martins.

Photo agencies began pulling work attributed to Martins from their site, fearing they were the victims of a fraud.

In August 2017 the DOC Galeria in Sao Paulo got in touch with Martins.

The Galeria planned to exhibit Martins' work as part of an exhibition about Brazilian photographers in conflict zones.

Veteran photographer Fenando Costa Netto contacted Martins about the planned exhibition.

Martins briefly went offline, claiming to be in Iraq without internet connection. When he returned a week later, Netto inadvertently informed him that suspicions were being raised about Martins' authenticity.

The Instagram being used by Eduardo Martins was deleted, and the number Netto had for Martins had a final cryptic message on Whatsapp.

I'm in Australia, I made the decision to spend a year in a van running the world. I'll cut everything, including internet, tb (also) I deleted the GI (Instagram). when) I come back...Thanks, I'll delete the zap [sic], stay with God.

The telephone number has since been deactivated on Whatsapp.


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