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Smokeshow Surfer Bro/Cancer Survivor/War Photographer Is... None Of The Above

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HuffPoFrank Abagnale, Jr. has nothing on Eduardo Martins, the pseudonym used by a person who fooled news agencies around the globe into believing he was an intrepid United Nations war photographer from Brazil.

Fans of Eduardo Martins’ work would likely tell you that the accomplished photographer was not only handsome, but also a skilled surfer from Sao Paulo, and a survivor of childhood leukemia.

They probably didn’t know, until now, that the 32-year-old is who had amassed more than 100,000 followers on his now-deleted Instagram account wasn’t Eduardo Martins at all. There was never an Eduardo Martins.

The face of “Eduardo Martins” actually belongs to that of British surfer Max Hepworth-Povey, who doesn’t shoot war photography at all.

The whole facade came crashing down after war photographer and Waves site columnist Fernando Costa Netto published an interview with Martins, with whom he had developed an online friendship. The interview, published in July, lauded the photographer’s work. Shortly thereafter, Costa Netto received calls from BBC Brasil and an unknown English publication indicating Martins was a fraud. In an attempt to get the real story, Costa Netto questioned Martins, which led to Martins deleting his Instagram and WhatsApp, according to SBS.

Prior to deleting his accounts, Martins told Costa Netto that he was “in Australia.”

“I’ve made the decision to spend a year in a van,” he said. “I’ll delete everything online, including internet. I want to be in peace, we’ll see each other when I get back. For anything, write me at A big hug. I’m going to delete the zap. God be with you. A hug.” 

That exchange led Costa Netto to publish a follow-up report with extremely damning accusations in August. Additionally, the BBC had previously published a long profile of Martins and his life story, which has since been retracted after Middle East-based BBC Brasil contributor Natasha Ribeiro became suspicious. Martins had contacted her and she realized that no one she knew in the region had ever actually met him, the BBC reported Wednesday. 

Ribeiro was able to confirm with the United Nations that no one named Eduardo Martins was ever employed by them.

BBC Brasil also discovered that the images passed off as Martins’ face were of surfer Hepworth-Povey. The mystery fraudster had inserted Hepworth-Povey into dozens of photographs depicting war zones. Hepworth-Povey told BBC Brasil that “it’s crazy that some random guy decided to use my image among so many options across internet.”

The false persona would be bad enough on its own, but when you factor in how widespread the images were, the con takes on a new significance.

The mystery person doctored images from photographers all around the world, inverting and retouching them so they’d become unsearchable, then shared them on “Martins’” account.

The phony images, taken in places including Gaza, Iraq, and Syria, were picked up by Getty Images, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, and other outlets. 

So far, Getty has since taken down all of the fraudulent Martins photos they had in circulation, and HuffPost has reached out to them for comment. 

Daniel C. Britt, one of the real photographers behind some of the stolen images, told Mashable that he was most disappointed that Martins “bastardized” his work and “gave people yet another reason to distrust the news”.

As for Martins, the real identity of the fake photographer is still unknown. For now, this mystery is unsolved.

I love me a good fraud, and this one has some fantastic ingredients. Some dude took a sprinkle of catfish, a dash of identity theft, and a heaping spoonful of plagiarism and brewed up quite a character in Eduardo Martins. If you’re going to completely fabricate an identity, might as well shoot for the fucking moon. UN war photographer? Nah, they’ll never buy that. Handsome surfer bro? Eh, implausible. Cancer survivor? Maybe. But if I combine all 3 like I’m summoning the Captain Planet of lies, I’ll be home free! Flawless.

His creation sounds like the person you’d concoct if you were at a bar with Emily Ratajowski (spelling? Where’s Nate when you need him?) and you weren’t looking for a long-term relationship with her. Like hey Emily, big fan. Me? I like to surf, ever since I survived Leukemia as a kid. When I’m not hanging ten mid-barrel, I snap pics in war-torn countries. I’ve seen some gnarly shit! Oh your breasts? Sure, I’ll play.

While it’s never good to steal other people’s war photos, you almost have to respect the simplicity of it. All he did was flip the photos around and he fooled EVERYONE. Getty, WSJ, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, and Deutsche Welle (?) fell for it hook, line, and sinker. These are some of the most respected publications in the world and their photo teams were like wow, groundbreaking stuff.

Lastly, I love the way he tried to escape the impending crucifixion. When shit is about to hit the fan, you move to Australia to live in a van. Hear no evil, see no evil, smoke a bunch of weed and learn to surf since that’s a major part of your identity now.

PS- this guy can’t understand why the fraudster would have used him. Hey pal? Have you seen a mirror lately?

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