Appropriately, Miskin’s account came with the difficult promise of verifying that his profile photo was created by AI. Bendixen spent weeks creating his account in order to resemble an enthusiastic freelance photographer in northern Macedonia. He sent friend requests to hundreds of people in the photo business; Many recipients, including museum curators and magazine photographers.
When Bendixen went to Perpignan, his duality overwhelmed him. “I had my stomach sick, but I felt I had to document that the screening actually happened,” he says. She avoids the whirlpool of networking, dining alone and hiding in her hotel room to avoid meeting someone she knows. On the night of his screening, he came early and took a high seat in the bleacher, trying to hide behind a mask over his face. When the Wales video was rotated, a sequence of his bears soon floated into the scene. “My heart skipped a beat,” Bendixen says. “I thought the bears were the weakest connection.”
Bendixen returned home the next day in Norway and attacked himself, aiming to find out the truth a few days before the festival’s main event ended. He logged into Miskin’s Facebook account and wrote a post alleging that he had paid tenants to defraud himself “his project is real fake news !!”
For Bendixen’s alarm, the post didn’t get much attention. He reposted the allegations to a private photography Facebook group, sparking a discussion where participants largely complied with Miskin’s demands, but found little mistake in providing the subjects in the photo. His planned suicide, Bendixen spent days creating a Twitter presence for Miskin, eventually catching the eye of UK filmmaker Chesterton Aggall, who eventually called the project. “It was a big weight off my shoulder,” Bendiksen says.
He called Magnum CEO Caitlin Hughes, who was kept in the dark like almost everyone else in the agency. She was standing on a London street one night with her husband when she learned that the company had published a book, and sold the print, which was a forgery. “I knew he was working on something secret, but I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “It really moved the environment of documentary photography.” The next day, Magnum posted the interview where Bendixen was clear, warning the wider world of photography.
Jean-Franোois Leroy, longtime director of Visa Por L’Image, learned that his prestigious celebration had become punk when Bendixen emailed a link to the interview. The revelation has a sour taste. “We’ve known Jonas for years and trusted him,” said Leroy, who said he was “stuck.” The festival occasionally asks photographers to look at raw, uneducated pictures, but did not ask Bendixen, whose work had been featured in the past. “I think Jonas should have told me it’s a fake,” Leroy says, allowing the festival to reveal the stunt and its effects and create a feature out of the discussion.
Others taken on Bendixen’s project have warm feelings. Julian Montague, an artist and graphic designer from Buffalo, New York, saw Bendixen post a link to a Magnum interview on Facebook and read with interest. He bought the book at the beginning of the year because of the idea of a fake news industry and his interest in the aesthetics of the Eastern block. Bendiksen’s paintings, with granular and moody lighting, struck him as artwork, not artwork. Now they feel differently – in a way that has improved his experience rather than letting him down. “It’s interesting to revisit photographs with this knowledge,” he says. “I appreciate it as an experiment and art and agree that it paints a grim picture of the future.”
Chanderson, who initiated Bendixen’s publication, called the project “great,” but for a variety of reasons. He sees its initial value not as an indicator of the growing strength of synthetic images, but as a spotlight on the weaknesses of the photography industry.