Does This New Evidence Suggest the Copycat Travel Photographer Story That Went Viral is A Hoax?

Does This New Evidence Suggest the Copycat Travel Photographer Story That Went Viral is A Hoax?

Last week we reported on one of the most extreme cases of a photographer having their work ripped off. The story was that of Lauren Bullen, a travel photographer who allegedly discovered one of her followers was quite literally travelling the globe in order to replicate her images. Seem far-fetched? These new clues suggest the whole thing may have been a hoax.

The remarkable story was, to many, the most extraordinary example they’d ever witnessed of a photographer having their artistry plagiarized. It went viral, being covered by national and international media outlets alike. Naturally, some were skeptical as to how genuine this tale was. Travel photographer Bullen, 23, claimed the copycat was not only following her around the globe, but even mimicking the finer details of her images such as outfit choices and even pillow arrangements. Of course, a project of this nature requires substantial financial backing, since the locations in question stem both sides of the Atlantic. Here's some of the other evidence to suggest there may be more to this story than initially anticipated.

The Blog Post

Bullen had written about her experience with the copycat in a blog post entitled "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," but bizarrely later took it down. She re-instated it again a few days later, but Business Insider (BI) reports that any attempt to reach Diana – the alleged copycat – through Bullen saw their efforts quashed. She simply refused to put them in touch, and BI claim to have been unable to find Diana through their own attempts. Not to play devil’s advocate, but as the pair had apparently resolved the issue by this point, Bullen perhaps didn’t want the media storm directed at Diana to carry on erupting. The story continues.

Sourcing Locations

Some of the images that have been replicated were taken within private villas or hotel rooms. Ignoring the financial aspect for Diana having to hire the place, it’s realistically quite unlikely that she would have been able to hire the same room that Bullen had just stayed in days earlier.

There’s also the matter of Bullen not having geotagged her photos to specific locations. In the photos taken in Marrakesh, Morocco (a city with a population of almost 1 million) it’s incredibly coincidental that Diana happened to find the same shop doorway, having had no pinpointed location supplied by Bullen.

The Outfits

If you compare the outfits in a lot of the images, you'll notice they look smaller on Diana. Let’s hypothesize that these two are conspiring friends that are actually travelling together. They could have simply shared the same outfit, taking the photos a few minutes apart, which explains why the outfit is a different fit on Diana than it is on Bullen.

Bullen's email address

A quick Google search of "Diana_alexa" and "gypsea_lust" (Diana and Bullen’s Instagram handles, respectively), reveals a pretty damning result. The profile of a Twitter account from 2011 appears to link Diana to Bullen’s email address. The account is now private, but an old cached version shows the accounts information. For many, this has been what they consider the "smoking gun" in exposing this story as a hoax.

And There's More...

Since Business Insider’s initial investigation story, Cosmopolitan claim that a journalist – suspicious of the authenticity of Bullen’s story – approached them to offer another bit of potentially damning evidence. He had tweeted Bullen an image, asking her, "An odd coincidence that the person allegedly plagiarising you looks just like your mate @alyssalynch95?"

The photo features Bullen, her boyfriend, and their mutual friends – the latter of whom closely resemble both Diana and the male subject from some of Diana’s photos.

So what do we think? Has it been fake the entire time? Either way, it’s certainly paid off for Bullen, who has amassed over 200,000 followers across the one-week period in which this story went viral.

[via Business Insider]

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10 Comments

Where there's smoke.....

Tim Clarke's picture

Had my doubts on the story from first hearing about it. A social media stunt seems very likely indeed (a somewhat successful one). After all, the images are so identical in compostition, with lighting conditions almost exactly the same. Something very unlikely with natural light. Granted, they are a great collection of images for travel photography, but there are more genuine ways to share than manipulation.

Ariel Martini's picture

it's funny how this photos looks shot unpretentiously in seconds, but actually take hours to produce and loads of photoshop

I like the strategy of going viral. Worth the risk. Should have been more careful in creating separate entities.

If the shots were taken really just a few minutes apart they put a lot of effort in it since at the pool scene all plants as well as other stuff got re-arranged. Same for the bazar scene, where almost every single lamp was exchanged by a different one.

Bill Peppas's picture

Others drop their clothes other create drama to get famous nowadays...

Instead of your work being the cause of the increase of followers it's now down to hoaxes to attract followers. Looks like honesty and integrity no longer pay.

Sean Shimmel's picture

If it's true, their image moves so swiftly from admiration to antipathy

Hmmm. I have to admit that this did occur to me briefly. In retrospect, it is the far more likely explanation given the time, expense and logistics of re-creating the images...Occam's razor and all.

Disgusting. She needs more bad press around her, so please update this article and mention her name as much as possible, so that all clients know what kind of a person she is.