DEBUNKED

This 'perfectly timed' photo of a protester in a Polo Ralph Lauren jacket is actually photoshopped

A photo circulating on social networks since July 10, 2021 seems to show a perfectly timed snapshot of a police officer in the same position as the Polo Ralph Lauren logo – but it was actually photoshopped by Belgian artist Marijn Achternaam.
A photo circulating on social networks since July 10, 2021 seems to show a perfectly timed snapshot of a police officer in the same position as the Polo Ralph Lauren logo – but it was actually photoshopped by Belgian artist Marijn Achternaam. © Observers

This photo, which has been circulating on Twitter and Facebook since July 10, looks perfectly timed: the stance of a police officer on horseback brandishing a baton is a mirror image of the logo of the brand Polo Ralph Lauren on the back of a protester’s jacket. But the image is actually a creation of the artist Marijn Achternaam, who edited the original photograph.

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The image that went viral on Facebook and Twitter appears to show a police officer on horseback, in a neon vest, swinging a baton towards a protester wearing a black jacket. The logo of the brand Polo, by Ralph Lauren, has an uncanny resemblance to the scene unfolding in reality. Shared more than 75,000 times in this Tweet, the image seems as if it were taken at just the right moment. 

Since July 10, the photo has been shared in several languages, including French and English, without specifying the date it was taken or the fact that it was modified. “Incredible photo taken in London in June 2020”, reads the caption on this post, shared 200 times. 

To find the original photo, which is in the Getty Images photo bank, you can use a reverse image search (click here to find out how). It was taken by Daniel Leal-Olivas, an AFP photographer, in London on June 6, 2020. 

The photo also appears in an article from British media The Independent, which specifies that it was taken during a Black Lives Matter protest in central London, during which police on horseback charged at the crowd several times. Other photos and videos show police officers on horseback present at the protest.

The image shared on social media, with the Polo logo added, comes from the Instagram page of Belgian artist Marijn Achternaam, who is known for adding famous logos to photos. The artist posted the edited photo on Instagram on June 18, 2021, with the caption “All this Polo on, I got horsepower⁠⁠,” a lyric from the song “Mercy” by Kanye West.

Achternaam explained to the FRANCE 24 Observers that he wanted to tackle topics of police brutality and racism by repurposing a luxury brand’s logo:

These days, you can’t believe everything you see. That’s also the case for my piece “All this Polo on, I got horsepower”. It’s a photo that I found on the internet, into which I photoshopped the Polo Ralph Lauren logo on the jacket. The theme of the piece is, of course, police violence, racism and the oppression of public opinion.

I work in an advertising agency, so branding and logos have always fascinated me, especially when they’re used out of context. Nowadays, people have become desensitised to the problems the world is facing, but we’re obsessed with material goods, especially if they’re made by luxury brands. That’s why I try to present problems in an aesthetic and attractive way, so the viewer doesn’t immediately write them off and can think about the topic. 

An image of a piece crumbling off of an ice formation is superimposed with part of the Shell oil and gas company to read “hell”. Image posted on Instagram by @marijnachternaam on May 17, 2021, titled “Moving your future”.
A child wrapped in a gold emergency blanket, with the word “Refucci” in the style of the luxury brand Gucci’s logo. Piece titled “All that glitters ain’t gold” and posted on Instagram May 24, 2021 by @marijnachternaam.

The brand Ralph Lauren also has symbolic significance. It’s a reference to the Black hip-hop community of the 80s and 90s who defied class stereotypes by wearing Ralph Lauren. By taking something exclusive, that wasn’t made for them and wasn’t easily accessible to them, they empowered themselves.