Surfing war photographer Eduardo Martins exposed as a fake

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A man who claimed to work as a UN war photographer in some of the most dangerous parts of the world has been exposed as a fake. 

The work that 32-year-old Eduardo Martins claimed as his own was published by top media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Vice and BBC Brasil.

Martins fooled journalists all over the world by slightly editing the work of real war photographers, who had risked their lives in major conflict zones for their work, to elude anti-plagiarism software. 

In between faked trips to Mosul in Iraq, the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is under the control of ISIS, and the Gaza Strip, Martins claimed to enjoy surfing.

He uploaded pictures of British surfer Max Hepworth-Povey, cleverly edited into photographs of warzones to an Instagram account with 125,000 followers in a bid to created a new identity.

Martins edited a British surfer’s image into war zones (Instagram)

Martins also claimed to have survived leukaemia.

Mr Hepworth-Povey was unaware of the fraud until it was exposed by a BBC Brasil investigation.

“When a friend showed me the pictures, at first I thought it was a joke, someone making fun of me,” he said.

“But actually my pictures had been stolen. It is mad that a random guy has decided to use my image amidst so many options on the internet.”

The 32-year old from Cornwall said some of the images stolen from him were five years old.

“I work very far from war zones, with surfing trips,” said Mr Hepworth-Povey, who has been living and working in northern Spain for the past three months.

Martins described his fake escapades in extreme detail, giving interviews to websites and magazines. 

“Once in Iraq shooting a conflict, I stopped shooting to help a boy who was hit by a molotov cocktail, dropped the camera and helped get him out of the conflict area,” he told Recount Magazine in October 2016.

“In scenes like this, which are common in my work, I stop being a photographer and become a human being. I cannot be impartial in these moments.”

It was discovered Eduardo Martins was a completely fictitious character after he reached out to one of BBC Brasil’s Middle East journalists, Natasha Ribero. 

She became suspicious because neither she nor any others among the small pool of Brazilian journalists working in the region had ever met an Eduardo Martins in person.

The UN confirmed to BBC Brasil that Martins was not employed by them, and his cover was blown.

Martins had been maintaining his fake his identity by planning Skype meetings with editors, who would see a picture of surfer Mr Hepworth-Povey before the connection allegedly failed forcing the conversation to be carried out over WhatsApp. 

BBC Brasil also spoke to at least six women who say they had romantic online relationships with Eduardo Martins, none of whom ever met him in person. 

The real identity of Eduardo Martins remains a mystery. 


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