Once asked why he risked his life to photograph war-torn countries, Eduardo Martins expressed his desire to "show the public the reality of these places." The problem is the supposed Brazilian photojournalist didn't actually know the reality of places like Syria and Iraq because … he hadn't visited them. A BBC investigation reveals Martins' photos showing the devastation affecting Iraqi refugees, Syrian families, and those in the Gaza Strip—published in outlets like the Wall Street Journal and sold on Getty Images—were actually the work of other photojournalists, flipped horizontally to fool software used to detect plagiarism. Even selfies posted to Martins' since-deleted Instagram account were faked with a face stolen from the Facebook account of British surfer Max Hepworth-Povey.
"It's just mad. It's like seeing an evil twin," Hepworth-Povey tells the Washington Post, which unravels Martins' touching backstory. (Eduardo Martins doesn't actually exist, though the imposter's real name is unknown.) Like his photos, Martins' claims that he spent his early adulthood battling leukemia, suffered the death of his father due to liver failure, and worked at the UN Refugee Agency turned out to be false. As apparently did this account he gave to Recount last October: While in Iraq, "I stopped shooting to help a boy who was hit by a Molotov … and helped get him out of the conflict area." A journalist who alerted Martins to surfacing doubts is the last known person to hear from him. According to the BBC, Martins said he was "traveling around the world in a van" and wanted to be left "in peace."