After an investigation into ethical concerns surrounding Giovanni Troilo’s first place award in the World Press Photo Contemporary Issue-Story category, the organization has decided to uphold the award.
Massive Editorial Statement: World Press Photo, you got this totally wrong.
How so? From their statement, here’s their justification:
World Press Photo is a contest for photojournalism and documentary photography, established to cover a wide range of topics, styles and practices in contemporary reporting. The contest requires photojournalists do not stage pictures to show something that would otherwise have not taken place.
Yes, World Press Photo has just said that in its PHOTOJOURNALISM and DOCUMENTARY photography contest, you can stage a scene.
You can recreate something you claim happened before.
You can deceive.
You can lie.
World Press Photo – that is not journalism. You want to run a photo commentary contest? So be it. You want to run a photo column contest? So be it. You want to run an interpretive art contest? So be it.
But deception and staging play no role in journalism. Absolutely none.
The phrase “documentary photography” has been co-opted over the years and, admittedly, there is a long history of “documentary photography” being staged, directed or manipulated. It shouldn’t be – the sins of W. Eugene Smith were committed in a different era. We are better than this now.
Our tools are better, our understanding is better and the expectations of our audience – to seek truth and report it, to not deceive – should make us better.
The value of a World Press Photo award has, to me, been reduced to nothing.
UPDATE: World Press Photo has issued a clarification on this statement.