Digitally Altered Images Disqualified From World Press Finalists

Feb 14, 2014 Ethics
John Stanmeyer's winning image from today's announcement of World Press Photo winners, where up to eight or nine percent of the iamges judges picked for the final round were disqualified after being examined by a digital expert.
John Stanmeyer's winning image from today's announcement of World Press Photo winners, where up to eight or nine percent of the iamges judges picked for the final round were disqualified after being examined by a digital expert.

By Donald R. Winslow

DURHAM, NC (February 14, 2014) – For those who are concerned with ethics in photojournalism, the announcement this morning of this year's World Press Photo winners was much anticipated in light of last year's controversy over whether 2012 winner Paul Hansen's top photograph had gone "too far" in digital post production.

In the aftermath of last year's ethics discussion, WPP instituted new contest rules that make it necessary for photographers to provide their RAW files for digital verification if their images make it into the WPP final judging round.

So when today's WPP winners were announced, somewhat buried in the news was the fact that eight to nine percent of the contest's finalists were disqualified when it was discovered those single images or images that were with stories had been digitally altered. 

The photographs had been "materially or substantially changed," WPP jury chair Gary Knight told Jim Estrin at The New York Times today. “In every single case it was a meaningless and stupid process. None of the photographers improved their work and if they hadn’t done it they may well have been up for consideration.”

There are multiple rounds of judging, Alessia Glaviano said today from Milan, and the digital examination takes place only for the files of the finalists. Glaviano is the senior photography editor of Vogue Italia and L'Uomo Vogue, and was one of this year's WPP jury. 

"There is a first round where basically all we do is get the crap out," Glaviano told News Photographer magazine today. "Then in the second round of judging, we pick out what's going to go into the final judging. Before the final round of judging, the photographs are examined in the RAW files. Then after the RAW files are examined and pictures are disqualified, the pictures that remain are the final ones for the final round of judging."

The University of Missouri's Pictures of the Year International and WPP have now been judged, and the National Press Photographers Association's Best Of Photojournalism contest judging will start at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication in the middle of March.

"NPPA has always had a very strict Code of Ethics and code of conduct, and a very defined stance against the manipulation of images," Best Of Photojournalism contest committee chairman Terry Eiler said today.

"We have always allowed the judges to question and bring forward and disqualify images that they feel have, for whatever reason, been abused or manipulated. At this point we do not plan on requesting RAW files. But if something comes into serious question, we always have options. But as recently as just last year, we were very careful about which images come forward as finalists and how they are evaluated.

"We try to treat the photographers as professionals, and to be professional about it ourselves," Eiler said.