Amid its traditional mixture of glossy celebrity and gritty reportage, the magazine Paris Match published this week a searing double-page spread on student poverty in France.
The excellent black and white photographs of students prostituting themselves or looking for food in dustbins won the magazine's annual prize for student photojournalism. Student poverty certainly exists in France but the photos were entirely faked.
Before they received their trophy and €5,000 (£4,260) cheque at a ceremony on Wednesday, the prize-winners, Guillaume Chauvin and Rémi Hubert, read out a statement admitting to the hoax, stating that they had wanted to make a "powerful artistic gesture" attacking the "voyeurism" and gullibility of parts of the press.
The prize jury looked crestfallen but managed to applaud all the same. The two students, from the Strasbourg School of Decorative Arts, were handed their €5,000 cheque, which was later blocked by Paris Match.
The students said later that their teachers had approved the fake reportage. "There was nothing in the rules of the competition to say that rigged photos were banned," M. Hubert told Le Monde.
"We pushed the clichés to the limit. We thought the whole thing was so hackneyed that it could never win ... We wanted to call into question the inner-workings of the attitude of the kind of media which portrays human distress with complacency and voyeurism," they said.