“Honestly, I was surprised, and more than a little bit disappointed, by the number of pictures that were disqualified from the competition for having been altered and manipulated against the policies of World Press Photo and against our industry standards,” photographer David Guttenfelder, who was on this year’s World Press Photo jury, tells BJP.
Following a controversial win last year, World Press Photo instituted new rules relating to post-processing in award-winning images. “There has been a lot of discussion and widespread speculation regarding the permissible levels in post-processing of image files in the contest,” Michiel Munneke, World Press Photo’s managing director, explained last year. “We have evaluated the contest rules and protocols and examined how to create more transparency, and we have changed the procedures for examining the files during the judging.”
BJP understands that eight percent of the images that reached the final round were found to have been manipulated. “On the one hand, I was really distressed, especially because so much of the post-processing that had made these images ineligible was absolutely unnecessary,” says Gary Knight, this year’s chair of the jury. “It was materially minute but ethically significant. Or it was just laziness – it was photographers trying to turn a pig’s ears into a silk purse. One image in one story disqualified the whole story. And the image could have been photographed differently if the photographer had bent his knees a bit more. It was stupidity.”
Yet Knight praises World Press Photo’s work in filtering out these images. “I was thrilled that we found them,” he tells BJP. “[We sent] a strong message that if you fabricate your images, you will probably be caught, and you’ll be embarrassed. Everyone on the jury could see the extent of the problem. I think it’s a wonderful thing that the organisation has instituted this. I think it’s very important for us and the community to be open and frank about it.”
Knight hopes that photographers will think twice about using post-processing in light of this year’s results. “If we’re going to have a democratic press, I think it’s critical that it is believable. Newspapers, magazines and any media organisations or awards should make it clear what’s acceptable and what isn’t.”