Earlier this year it was revealed that 22% of entries into the 58th annual World Press Photo competition had been immediately disqualified due to ‘careless’ post-processing.
Two weeks after that announcement, an entirely new controversy arose when the mayor of Charleroi, Belgium claimed a series of winning photographs were staged and sensationalized. It was later revealed that the photos would not be disqualified, as the World Press Photo Association (WPPA) said there were ’no grounds for doubting the photographer’s integrity in carrying out his work.’
In hopes of preventing a repeat of the controversies of the past few years, WPPA has announced a new set of ethic guidelines for the 2016 competition.
Released early this morning, the new ethics guidelines have been developed with the direction of photographers, publishers and editors in 15 countries. Prefacing the updated guidelines is a simple summary of how photographers should approach the competition:
Entrants to the World Press Photo Contest must ensure their pictures provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene they witnessed so the audience is not misled.
Below are six guidelines every photographer must follow and be aware of before submitting an entry:
- Should be aware of the influence their presence can exert on a scene they photograph, and should resist being misled by staged photo opportunities.
- Must not intentionally contribute to, or alter, the scene they picture by re-enacting or staging events.
- Must maintain the integrity of the picture by ensuring there are no material changes to content.
- Must ensure captions are accurate.
- Must ensure the editing of a picture story provides an accurate and fair representation of its context.
- Must be open and transparent about the entire process through which their pictures are made, and be accountable to the World Press Photo Foundation for their practice.“
In addition to updated guidelines, WPPA has decided to make the judging handbook available to the public and has shared four videos showing examples of what types of editing will immediately disqualify an image.
Even with all of the guidelines in place, there’s still plenty of room for error across the board. Thus, to ensure the integrity of every winner, all photographers who make it to the final round of judging will need to hand over original and unprocessed images. If they were shot digitally, an unaltered raw or jpeg image must be submitted. If shot on film, the winning image and at least three frames before and after the contest entry must be submitted as negatives. These photos will be evaluated by two independent experts.
Once the winners are chosen and verified, all of the captions and metadata of the images will be fact-checked to ensure no sensationalism or exaggeration has taken place.
This all might seem like overkill, but with how much controversy has taken place, it’s hard to argue with the need for more checks and balances.
What are your thoughts on the new guidelines and processes? Too much or right in line with what you expect them to be?