Home / News / Doubt cast over one of photography's biggest hoaxes

Doubt cast over one of photography's biggest hoaxes

 17th Dec 2010

A former president of the Folklore Society has said that the famous Cottingley Fairies images were exposed as a hoax a decade earlier than most people think.

Stewart Sanderson, who worked as a professor at the University of Leeds in the 1970's, has claimed that he exposed the photographs as fakes 10 years before the late Geoffrey Crawley, the man widely regarded as exposing the hoax, did so.

Sanderson gifted the five Cottingley Fairies glass plates ­ dating from 1917 - and supporting documentation to the University of Leeds' Brotherton Library in 1972

By this time, the pictures, which seemed to provide photographic evidence of fairies, had been endorsed as authentic by theosophist Edward Gardner and also by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

However, Sanderson exposed the images as fakes and addressed the Folklore Society with the evidence in 1973.


“Crawley's articles of later dates in the British Journal of Photography rehearsed all my survey, including my drawing attention to Edith (sic) Wright's artistic talents and experience of photographic darkroom practices and also the Wright family's sense of social inferiority to such a public figure as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

“I believe that I outplaced Geoffrey Crawley by a good ten years,” added Sanderson.

Even if you're not quite ready to stun people with hoax photos you can still have great fun with your photography.  Have a look at our photography videos there's loads of information about using lenses, exposure, composition and more.  Good luck!