In an editors note, the Times acknowledged that Edgar Martins, a 32-year-old freelance photographer based in Bedford, England, digitally altered the photos. The shots have been removed from the newspaper's Web site.
Readers pointed out alterations to the photo essay, titled "Ruins of the Second Gilded Age," on the blogs MetaFilter and PDN Pulse.
The photos showed run-down housing construction projects across the U.S. that had been hit by the recession. In an introduction to the spread, the magazine said the photos were created with long exposures but not altered by computer.
The Times said it confronted the photographer and found that "most of the images did not wholly reflect the reality they purported to show."
"Had the editors known that the photographs had been digitally manipulated, they would not have published the picture essay," the editor's note says.