Image mislabeled as drone footage of Sleeping Lady goes viral

 Beautiful shade of lavender over Sleeping Lady or Mount Susitna. Photo by John Gomes
Beautiful shade of lavender over Sleeping Lady or Mount Susitna. Photo by John Gomes (KTUU)
Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 10:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Mount Susitna has often captured the imagination of Alaskans. Known as the Sleeping Lady by locals, the mountain has become the subject of local lore. 

Across the inlet from Anchorage, Mount Susitna appears to be the side profile of a woman resting. At the end of July, the Sleeping Lady’s name was widely shared in a viral post of an image claiming to be a mountain outside of Anchorage. 

In some of the posts that went viral, the image was labeled as drone footage of Mount Susitna, and it quickly spread on several social media platforms. The image shows the figure of a woman laying on her side as the outline of a snow-covered mountain, drawing several comparisons to Alaska’s Sleeping Lady.

The image captivated people around the world, but there was one problem. An initial Facebook post of the image claimed it was an aerial photo of the Sleeping Lady. Several commenters asked where the photo was taken.

That’s when Jean-Michel Bihorel commented to say the location of the photo was “in my computer.” It was a digital image he had created.

Bihorel, a digital artist based in Paris, created the image titled “Winter Sleep” in January of this year. He never expected the artwork to go viral with the claim that it was Mount Susitna. Other posts even claimed the art was a depiction of a mountain in Kyrgyzstan.

“I find it amusing to see how people need to believe that some fantastic things may have happened,” Bihorel said. “I think that in these hard times, everybody needs a bit of fantasy in their life.”

A Facebook post of “Winter Sleep” with the caption “The Sleeping Lady Mountain, about 33 miles northwest of Anchorage Alaska,” has been shared almost 500,000 times and has around 50,000 likes. 

The Facebook post now has a disclaimer stating that the caption is “partly false information.” The design is clearly not the Sleeping Lady and definitely not a photograph of the mountain.

Bihorel has never been to Anchorage, but now that “Winter Sleep” has been tied to the location, he hopes to visit one day.

“I was not initially inspired by any of these mountains, as I discovered them when the buzz started to happen,” Bihorel said. “I would love to visit these sites one day!”

Several images in Bihorel’s portfolio combine the female shape with natural elements. Before “Winter Sleep” was created, he had designed an image in the style of a Martian landscape with the shape of a woman blending in with the natural environment.

“The goal was to make very peaceful looking pictures,” Bihorel said. “Like a nap that would have lasted thousands of years.”

The image reminded some commenters of the sleeping Titans of Greek mythology. A search of #SleepingLady on Instagram results in dozens of reposts of “Winter Sleep” labeled as the Sleeping Lady. One commenter even jokes about the sleeping giant, saying to let her sleep, it’s not the year to wake her up.

Over the last two months, Bihorel said the image has been viewed millions of times, and people have even found his website to make online purchases of print versions of the image. An unlisted YouTube video of his design has garnered over 165,000 views.

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