Giovanni Troilo finds a silver lining after World Press exclusion

“I am a very reserved person so it was really a heavy blow,” says Giovanni Troilo of having his series La Ville Noire, The Dark Heart of Europe excluded from World Press Photo, after he had been awarded first prize in the Contemporary Issues – Story category. “But I am discovering there is also a positive side.”

Troilo’s images were rejected on 03 March after WPP discovered one of them – a shot depicting an artist with live models – had been taken in Molenbeek, Brussels. The project as a whole had been presented as a study of another town, Charleroi, leading WPP managing director Lars Boering to state that, “We now have a clear case of misleading information and this changes the way the story is perceived. A rule has now been broken and a line has been crossed.”


Troilo doesn’t deny the error but says it was “involuntary”; he adds he doesn’t really understand why the jury decided to exclude his work, as in the past other photographers have made similar errors without being withdrawn. But he says his intentions one way or the other are now besides the point as “it doesn’t change anything in the result” – and adds that the fracas has, paradoxically, brought some opportunities.

“It’s strange publicity, I am finding,” he says. “People have been writing to me from Australia, from Switzerland, about exhibitions, because of the publicity. I am looking for a publisher for the book [of the project] so maybe it could be [helpful].”

A longer version of La Ville Noire, The Dark Heart of Europe goes on show in the Cortona On the Move Festival from 16 July, for example, invited into the programme because the organisers are “deeply stimulated by the debate caused by Giovanni Troilo’s awarded series….profoundly troubled by some commentaries on the dogmas of photojournalism, extremely disappointed by the final decision of the WPP Committee to revoke the prize”, as they state on their website.

“We do not need finger pointing or paladins of justice,” adds the festival’s artistic director Arianna Rinaldo, “nor modern-day witch hunts or the 10 commandments of photojournalism, we need to tell and show stories, especially the ones that might bother someone and make us think.”

“I am not really happy [about the WPP decision], but I have to respect the judges’s decision,” says Troilo. “[And] a lot of people now know my project and really love it.”

UPDATE The image caption on this story was updated on 11 March at 9.13am.

Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy