Debunking some “leaked” “Banksy photos”

Part of an installation from "Banksy vs the Bristol Museum." Photo by fingertrouble.
Part of an installation from “Banksy vs the Bristol Museum”

Ugh… Another day, another ridiculous article about Banksy about to go viral. On Friday evening, Whitehot Magazine sent out an email with the subject line “Banksy Unmasked: Real Photos of Banksy WORLD EXCLUSIVE.”

Basically, I suggest that you ignore Whitehot Magazine’s post and photos. They’re essentially nonsense. If you’re content to leave it at that, feel free to ignore the rest of this post. If you want to know why Whitehot Magazine’s post is verifiably hooey, read on…

Knowing full well that the post was clickbait but just wanting to remain informed, I opened the email and clicked the link to Whitehot Magazine’s blog. There they were: Four very odd photos purporting to be of Banksy (which I’m not resharing here). The post reads:

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Banksy Unmasked: Real Photos of Banksy

Now for the first time Banksy unmasked! A source close to the elusive street artist Banksy has authenticated the following photos. After several years of deliberation artist Noah Becker, publisher of Whitehot Magazine has obtained these photos from a secret source.

After many questions we can in fact confirm that the following photos are authentic images of Banksy.

My apologies to Whitehot Magazine for quoting their post in full, but it’s necessary. Of the four photos in their post, only one appears to be new, so I’m not sure how the other three could be considered exclusives.

One was posted by Gawker in 2008, around the same time they were posting a number of other supposed photos of Banksy. Additionally, Gawker reports that this photo and the most famous supposed photo of Banksy “part of a set of photos taken of Banksy at work in Jamaica in 2004.” On that basis alone, Whitehot Magazine’s post falls apart. Even if they are posting new photos of Banksy, they can’t be unmasking him “for the first time” if one of the photos they are posting essentially confirms that a previously leaked photo is legit.

Another photo in Whitehot’s set is the profile picture for @banksy on twitter (and has been for quite some time). Only one problem: That’s not actually Banksy’s twitter account. Banksy is not on twitter or facebook, as has been confirmed numerous times by his representative Jo Brooks. Best case scenario: The photo is of Banksy, but again, it’s not new. Likely scenario: The photo is not of Banksy. Either way, the man in the photo is pretty damn obscured.

Two of Whitehot’s images are less traceable, but I’m betting that someone out there can help me…

One, supposedly of a much skinnier “Banksy in his studio in the 1990s” appears to have been posted elsewhere in connection with Banksy in as early as 2008 as well, but subsequently that image had disappeared off the internet (or at least search engines’ radar) for a while. That said, since Banksy probably painted his first piece to be sold around 1998 and the man in those photos from Jamaica in 2004 looks substantially different from the guy in the studio, I think it’s fair to at least question whether or not those two are even the same person.

For the last photo, I’m stumped. Whitehot Magazine says it’s “Banksy (in pink wig) talking to police.” This one very well could be Banksy… Or just about any other random middle-aged white guy in England. I can’t find the image anywhere else online, but hell, someone could have just taken it on the street yesterday and sent it to Whitehot Magazine as a joke (although metadata suggests the photo is from 2011).

But why, I’m sorry, would anyone with a recent world-exclusive photo of Banksy leak it to the relatively obscure Whitehot Magazine when they could sell it to a British tabloid for a huge paycheck? If you’re gonna do something terrible, at least do it right! And why would that person leak photos that have already been leaked and claim them as new and exclusive, the first authentic leaks? Surely, “a source close to” Banksy, someone in a position to leak photos of him, would know which photos have already been leaked.

Whitehot Magazine’s post is one of the more ridiculous thing I’ve ever read about Banksy. Best case scenario for those who want to see Banksy unmasked: These photos are of Banksy, but only one of them is new, and Whitehot Magazine is not unmasking Banksy “for the first time,” but rather using a vague anonymous source to reconfirm reports from 2007. Worst case scenario, some 12-year-old kid searched the internet for a few lesser-known photos of Banksy and Whitehot Magazine fell for their prank. Actually, the worst case scenario is that Whitehot Magazine just cooked up the whole thing for attention, knowing all along how wrong they were.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t want to see Banksy unmasked, and I’ve got no idea if any of the photos that have ever been leaked actually do unmask him. However, if you want to see the train wreck that is Whitehot Magazine’s “world exclusive” and I suppose risk seeing photos of Banksy that have been around for at least six or seven years, here’s a link.

Photo by fingertrouble