Maybe you’ve seen this photo somewhere on the Internet before.
I came across it the other day, again, when I saw it as someone’s profile photo on a climbing web site. It’s of course not new (note Lycra tights on man, Reebok aerobic cross-trainers on woman.) Plenty of Internet commenters have weighed in on the photo as an example of “bad parenting,” or whatever (worse than high-fructose corn syrup?) — but just as many have tried to assert that the photo is real, or not real.
Many people weighed in on this SuperTopo thread back in early 2011, including user “jordeeeeen,” who said: “This is me. I am now 19 years old. This photo was taken for a famous photographer. Everything is fine in the head.”
“Yes, once a climber always a climber. I played every sport you could when I was younger, field hockey in high school, and now I just spend 2 hours at the gym everyday.”
Which elicited the response, “Who’s pulling who’s leg, come on. Get real.” from another SuperTopo user. Would it be too convenient that the baby in the photo was actually a registered SuperTopo user? Who’s “jordeeeeen”?
A few web sites have said: “The original baby-throwing image is taken from the Spring 1995 Patagonia outdoors catalog. The photo is credited to Greg Epperson. The catalog’s caption reads ‘Come to papa. Jordan Leads, lifting off from Sherry Leads, heads for a safe reentry into Jeff Leads’ arms. Turtle Rock, Joshua Tree National Park, California.'”
I don’t have the Spring 1995 Patagonia catalog in front of me, but I sent an e-mail to Patagonia on Tuesday, asking if the photo did indeed appear in the Spring 1995 catalog, and haven’t yet heard back. (I’m sure the folks at Patagonia have better things to do than rifle through their catalog archives to find out if some photo was in some random catalog from 16 years ago.) The photo is apparently in the “Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Catalog Photography” book — regardless, Patagonia could have published a doctored photo without knowing it. (For what it’s worth, the first version of Photoshop shipped in 1990, 5 years before the photo was printed in Patagonia’s catalog.)
Some bloggers have claimed the original photo is of the couple tossing a rope bag, and the baby was later Photoshopped in.
You might notice the space between the shoulder strap and the rope bag itself is white — either a conveniently positioned tiny cloud, or … a lazy Photoshop effort. Either way, the original image, genuine or not, has resulted in some hilarious creations, exhaustive collections of which can be found here and here.
Is there any real evidence to its authenticity? If you believe everything you read on the Internet, it’s Photoshopped. Or, it’s not.
Probably four people really know: Jeff Leads, Sherry Leads, maybe Jordan Leads, and Greg Epperson.
I e-mailed Epperson to ask if the photo was real or not, and he didn’t comment on its authenticity. He is definitely not happy with the theft of his image and where it’s gone on the Internet, since it violates his copyright. Did he manipulate it? Only Epperson really knows: ‘Maybe I did or maybe I didn’t,’ he says.
So basically, if you’re going to steal and alter Epperson’s photo and put it all over the Internet, he’s not going to give you the satisfaction of letting you in on the truth. Which, I have to admit, I understand completely.
But a tiny part of me still wants to know if it’s real or not …