You've probably seen it dozens of times today—the photo of the anonymous Vancouver couple caught in a loving embrace as their city burns in a hockey riot. The image, tender love behind a heavily guarded, truncheon-wielding cop, is a beautiful juxtaposition. But does it actually depict what everyone thinks it does?
Maybe not. One rumor swirling around the internet is that the woman in the photo was stabbed or otherwise injured, and the man with her was attempting to comfort her until help arrived. Despite lots of searching, I've been unable to find any verifiable reports that this happened, but it's not totally out of the question: Multiple people were treated for stab wounds following last night's riot, and dozens more for lesser injuries. What's more, the photo above, a bird's-eye view of the kissers, seems to show a group of people worriedly standing around the couple, which is no longer locking lips. The picture is blurry, but the woman almost looks like she's clutching her face.
If the injury claim isn't true, the above photo also lends evidence to another increasingly popular theory: The kissing photo wasn't an improvised moment in time at all, but a staged, artsy, hipster picture. Proponents of that story say the crowd around the couple is composed of photographer's assistants preparing the shoot. That idea also can't be rejected out of hand, especially considering how almost too perfect the image is.
To get to the bottom of things, I reached out to the photographer who took the original kissing picture, Getty Images' Rich Lam, who says none of the conspiracy theorists are correct. To his knowledge, says Lam, the couple was kissing. Lam's full statement is below:
I was covering last night’ Stanley Cup Playoffs for Getty Images when Vancouver erupted in riots after the Canucks’ game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins. It was complete chaos. Rioters set two cars on fire and then I saw looters break the window at a neighboring department store. At that point, the riot police charged right towards us. After I stopped running, I noticed in the space behind the line of police that two people were laying in the street with the riot police and a raging fire just beyond them. I knew I had captured a "moment" when I snapped the still forms against the backdrop of such chaos but it wasn’t until later when I returned to the rink to file my photos that my editor pointed out that the two people were not hurt, but kissing.
Regardless of what's actually going on in the photo, the truth of which is bound to come out sooner or later, the picture itself, and how it spread, is a testament to how quickly the internet runs with stories, real or not.