Slate Photo Illustrations Draw Objections From News Agencies

A screen capture shows a Twitter post from Slate using an altered photo putting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump together at a campaign event.

By Tom Burton

News photos that were digitally combined to show Vladimir Putin at campaign events with presidential candidate Donald Trump have been removed from the Slate website after objections from news organizations that distributed the original photos.

The story the photos accompanied was posted at 8:01 p.m. on July 4, 2016 with the headline “Putin’s Puppet.” The article by Franklin Foer described how Trump’s personality could align with goals set by Putin, the controversial Russian president. Slate, a newsmagazine that has been online since 1996, has a history of closely covering American politics.

Four black-and-white images ran with the story and were all credited as “Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker” followed by credits to the origin photos. Two illustrations used Reuters photos and the other two used photos from Getty Images. Photos from Donald Trump rallies were altered to add images of Putin lurking in the background at Trump events.

Two of the illustrations featured photos from Reuters. The agency contacted Slate with objections, and the photos were removed by the afternoon on July 5, less than 24 hours after they were posted online. Reuters released this statement:

"In line with Reuters guidelines, our photos must reflect reality. Once we were made aware of these composite images produced using our photos, we immediately requested that the images be removed, and they were. The manipulation of our pictures without prior approval is not permitted by our terms of use.”

A screen capture shows a photo illustration that used photos from Reuters that has since been removed from the Slate site .


Slate’s editor in chief Julia Turner said any offense to the original photographers was unintended.

“Our photo illustrations were a nod to the visual style of the Manchurian Candidate, with unlikely situations rendered in high-contrast black and white,” said Turner in a prepared statement. “The images were labeled as photo illustrations, and we felt the effect was clear for readers. But we're very deferential to original photographers. When we learned that Reuters wasn't comfortable with the illustrations, we took the images down."

Getty Images sided with Slate and did not object to the illustrations.

"It appears clear from the credit (“photo illustration”) and the crediting of the two single images that comprise the illustration, that Slate was being transparent about their usage of the two images, and that there was no intent to falsely portray the content of the composite photo.” Getty said in a prepared statement.  


Screen captures of the Slate website show the first illustration using a Washington Post photo, left, and the replacement illustration that uses a photo from a Getty photographer. 


However, a Washington Post photo distributed by Getty had its own restrictions. The Post does not approve of any alterations of their photos. That illustration was removed from the Slate website at Getty’s request and it appears that the original tweets using the same image have been deleted.

The original photo was made by Washington Post photographer Ricky Carioti at a Trump rally on May 3, 2016 and showed the candidate at a podium making a victory speech. An image of Putin was added in a space originally occupied by a woman with long blonde hair identified as part of Trump’s supporters and family.

Late in the day on July 5, the illustration that used the Post photo as the lead image on the story was replaced with similar illustration using Getty staff photos. In the new image, it appears that one of Trump’s sons has been blocked out by the Putin image.

Larson-Walker, the person credited with the illustrations, is identified as an associate art director at Slate, according to her LinkedIn profile. She was worked at Slate since 2013 and has also held photo editor job titles at Slate, according to her profile. She also edits This Week in Photos for the site, often themed to breaking news.

The heated and unusual 2016 presidential election has had several instances where altered or misappropriated photos were used by the campaigns. For a time on July 5, the Slate home page featured the “Putin’s Puppet” story next to another promo for a story about Trump’s campaign lifting an internet meme of Hillary Clinton with text printed over a Star of David.