Ethics breach disqualifies 2014 World Press Photo entries

More than 9 percent of 2014 World Press Photo competition finalists were disqualified for digital manipulation ruled outside the bounds of ethical photojournalism, James Estrin of The New York Times reports.

News Photographer magazine’s Don Winslow puts that number at somewhere between 8 and 9 percent.

In the wake of last year’s controversy over Swedish photojournalist Paul Hansen’s top-placing Gaza photo that many photojournalism industry professionals (including Photoshelter co-founder and CEO Allen Murabayashi) felt was over-toned, World Press Photo instituted a new rule this year requiring photographers to submit original, unretouched raw files for all photos chosen to advance to the final round of judging.

World Press Photo jury chairman Gary Knight told the Times an outside expert analyzed these original digital files, compared them to the contest finalists’ entries submitted for judging and found evidence indicating several photos had been materially altered in post-processing, usually through digital cloning or extreme toning.

“Some of the changes were materially trivial but they were ethically significant,” Knight told the Times.

“In every single case it was a meaningless and stupid process,” Knight said. “None of the photographers improved their work and if they hadn’t done it they may well have been up for consideration.”

World Press Photo was also embroiled in controversy last year when Magnum photographer Paolo Pellegrin was accused of staging a photo, misrepresenting its subject and plagiarizing a New York Times story in his second-place general news picture story titled “The Crescent.” Pellegrin’s dubious “Crescent” story also helped notch him freelance/agency Photographer of the Year honors in last year’s 70th Pictures of the Year International competition.

Neither World Press Photo nor POYi ever sanctioned Pellegrin, despite outcries from numerous photojournalists, including Pulitzer-winning former presidential photographer David Hume Kennerly.

I'm a Mid-South photojournalist, Kentucky writer and digital media consultant (or eNinja™). Circle me on Google Plus at, follow me on Twitter at @surattb and Instagram me at @BillySuratt. Got a news tip or suggestion about some journalism that needs committed? Email (discretion is always guaranteed).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *