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Fact-Check

The US Embassy in Nepal has indicated that it has been embarrassed to share photo montages of a snow leopard allegedly snapped by US photographer Kittiya Pawlowski in the shadows of Mount Everest in Nepal.

Pawlowski’s photo montages went viral after she shared them on her social media accounts – which have been deactivated now.

In a Facebook post, the Embassy said it would be deleting its post that shared Pawlowski’s images, and added that it had not had a partnership with the little-known artist.

The Embassy’s move follows the circulation of a fact-check report by Alpine magazine that proved Pawlowski’s Everest snow leopard photos to be fake and cleverly photoshopped.

When they appeared on social media, the photo montages misled a lot of users and media outlets – including NepalMinute.com – and the US Embassy in Kathmandu was no exception.

On Sunday, the US Embassy wrote on its Facebook page: “As quickly as recent photos of a snow leopard in the Himalayas went viral, so too has an in-depth article concluding the images are fake…”

After Alpine Mag’s fact-check started circulating, Kittiya Pawlowski, the purported “National geographic and Animal Planet-affiliated photographer”, photographer behind the state-of-the-art collaging, has now deactivated her social media accounts.

However, her website is still active and selling her creation.

All credits go to Alpine Magazine, which did the extensive fact-checking behind the photos and now claims, “at least three of the photos have been manipulated”.

Alpine Magazine, known for its works in mountaineering, questioned Pawlowski’s works for three simple reasons:

  1. Three photos are “demonstrably fake (collage of several fragments of photos)”.
  2. The real identity of the artist and
  3. The appearance of the snow leopard in an “improbable location”.

The authors, Jocelyn Chavy & Ulysse, wrote the problem with the photos they analysed is in “their composition, light and the location”.

The author went on to claim: “One thing is certain, Kittiya Pawlowski is an expert in visual arts and using Photoshop.”

The authors said that the photos are superb but a digital creation and “should have been shared that way rather than claiming it to be a real photo”.

kittiya-pawlowski-fake-profile1669546212.png
A profile photo sent to Alpine Mag by Pawlowski, which also seems to be photoshopped. Photo: Alpine Mag

The Instagram handle of Pawlowski, a self-proclaimed wildlife photographer, had just five photos of the snow leopard before the account went dark. According to the research done by the magazine, nobody in the wildlife photographers’ circle seems to know the photographer.

Neither any of her previous photographic works have been revealed.

Sounds too good to be true

Vincent Munier, described by Alpine magazine as France’s best-known wildlife photographer and a snow leopard expert told the magazine: “They are called snow leopards, but they almost never venture on to snow, even less into areas of ice and crevasses where there is no prey. They never look for difficulties. They stay on rocky terrain.”

There are more questions that remain unanswered.

Detailed scrutiny of each of the photos is posted in Alpine magazine, what is true is, she seems to have fooled much of the world and there arises the ethical “question of honesty”.

It remains an open question until Pawlowski goes public and explains more about her creation.

As pointed out by the authors of the magazine, there are a few major works to be done to determine:

  • Where did the “picture of the snow leopard come from?”
  • Does Pawloski's Instagram handle ‘Girl_creature’, really exist?
  • What is the origin of the bits and pieces of the image that went into reproducing the creative art?

Also read: Chungba Sherpa shares close-up photo of Manang snow leopard

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