Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Steve Sheridan admits forgery

I have not checked the blogosphere or my e-mail to know how widely this is already known; apologies if this is already old news.

Steve Sheridan has admitted that his claimed photo of a mystery woodpecker from 2007 is a forgery. It does not appear that Gary Erdy knew of or was in any way complicit with this forgery. The image of the background bird was altered and pasted in to the photo; there was never more than the one Pileated in the frame. The source image was a Pileated Woodpecker, to which he add the white shield. Evidently the flood of new information confirming the irreconcilable conflict between the distances from camera to each bird and the apparent relative sizes of the birds finally compelled him to confess that the image was manipulated.

I have more sympathy for Steve than most of you would expect, considering how harshly I have dealt with other suspected forgers. But Steve confessed and repented willingly, and never hurled accusations, insults, and other vitriol at those who questioned his veracity or asked straightforward questions.

Obviously this is now entirely moot as regards the significance of this image per se. However it has many repercussions for the past and future, especially with respect to data from other private, unaffiliated searchers, as well as the vetting and verification of this data. I will have more to say about that at some point in the future; we ALL dropped the ball at various points this time.


At 2:03 PM, Blogger FAV said...

Bill, I would think it SOP for one/some of the review experts to have checked the raw/original file in such a situation for authenticity and signs of photoshopping.

Was this not done? ..and if not why not to your knowledge?

tks Fv

At 4:29 PM, Blogger cyberthrush said...

"...repented willingly, and never hurled accusations, insults, and other vitriol at those who questioned his veracity or asked straightforward questions."

I'm sorry Bill, but it's all-too-easy to 'repent willingly' when you get caught red-handed; and since when is restraining from 'hurling vitriol' when you're in the wrong considered a virtue...
I feel sorry for those around Steve who may be affected by this, but hard to feel much sympathy for Steve himself... to the contrary HE should be feeling sympathy for us and for Gary (and I imagine he does).

At 6:44 AM, Blogger Bill Pulliam said...

I'll have more to say on these things later, for now a couple of quickies.

As for sympathy, personal sympathy is not the same as forgiveness or excusing a "scientific lapse." These things are not done rationally, they come from emotional turmoil. I have sympathy for him in the way you can have sympathy for someone whose personal or sociological circumstances lead him to commit a crime; that of course does not forgive the crime or relieve him of the consequences.

Vetting: I was involved directly only in the first cut, the "yes this image is not trivial and deserves a closer look," so I don't know and can't speak to what happened in detail at later levels. I didn't have (or request) original files or hardware, nor do I myself have the skills or expertise to do a full-scale authenticity analysis of them even if I did have them.

Detailed post-mortem is inevitable, regardless of how useful it may or may not be. Big picture ol' me focuses on what I see as the larger implications not who missed what clue. One of the biggies, which I will be discussing later is this:

Independent freelancers, you're sunk. As far as ever getting widespread acceptance of any evidence you produce (if that is your goal), you can just about forget it. I am not saying this is right, I am not saying this is the attitude I will take, I am just guessing that this is what will be in the community as a whole. You are guilty until proven innocent, and the standard of proof will be set unattainably high.


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