NEW YORK -- The managing editor of Time magazine believes that pictures the magazine published of alleged child prostitution in the streets of Moscow were mostly likely faked by the teen-age Russian photographer who took them.
The six-picture spread appeared in the June 21 issue of Time. It showed two boys, ages 8 and 9, made up as girls, and their pimp. It was part of a provocative "Sex for Sale" cover story about a worldwide boom in prostitution. The photos were taken by Alexey Ostrovskiy, 17, who has told contradictory stories over the past three months about his subjects.
"It's pretty obvious that something fishy has gone on with these pictures," James Gaines, managing editor of the weekly newsmagazine, said Friday. "I wish I could definitely say they are faked, but they are pretty smelly."
Mr. Gaines and other journalists involved in the episode say it highlights the difficulty of reporting in foreign countries where residents desperate for money will say and do anything. "It's a lesson for all of us," said Mr. Gaines.
After news accounts in European, Canadian and U.S. publications said Time was most likely duped, Mr. Gaines wrote a letter Aug. 16 in the magazine alerting readers to the controversy. The full retreat by Time comes after Moscow police concluded its own criminal investigation into the alleged prostitution last week.
Vladimir Zolotnitsky, a spokesman for the Internal Affairs office in Moscow, akin to a police headquarters, said that it began its investigation at Parliament's request.
"They were photographed for money. . . . The photographer confirmed this, his assistant confirmed this, the children have confirmed this," said Mr. Zolotnitsky. He said the alleged pimp depicted was paid $10 and the two boys $6 each for six days' work.
However, Mr. Ostrovskiy has told Newsday that he did not admit that the pictures were staged. He said at the time he thought it was a real situation, although now he has his doubts. He also said he did not pay cash but admitted that he gave the alleged pimp vodka and cigarettes, and the boys, bananas and chocolate.
"I don't know if they were prostitutes or not," Mr. Ostrovskiy said. "When I got the pictures I was sure it was true. Now I don't know. I want to believe it's true, but I don't know any more. . . . I'm a photographer. It's someone else's job to find out."