Troilo's "Dark Heart Of Europe" Was Awarded, Then Disqualified In POYi

Four of the photographs from Giovanni Troilo's "The Dark Heart Of Europe" which was at first awarded a First Place honor in World Press Photo, and then later revoked.
Four of the photographs from Giovanni Troilo's "The Dark Heart Of Europe" which was at first awarded a First Place honor in World Press Photo, and then later revoked.

By Donald R. Winslow

ATHENS, GA (March 9, 2015) – Pictures of the Year International director Rick Shaw today confirmed that Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo's "The Dark Heart Of Europe" essay, entered in the 72nd Pictures of the Year International Visual Editing Division in the Motion Issue Reporting Story category [multimedia], was initially awarded 3rd Place but then was later thrown out by the judges.

Troilo's entry consisted of between 150 and 200 photographs in multimedia format, mostly scenes from the same settings and subjects as depicted in his still photography entry that was at first honored, and then revoked, in World Press Photo. Troilo's POYi entry was presented in a motion-graphics video format. In other words instead of just one still image from one of the photographer's settings, a sequence of images (a la motor-drive) would unfold with the photographer sometimes changing the composition of the scene from vertical to horizontal as it progressed.

Shaw says the judges initially awarded Troilo's entry 3rd Place, but then two of the four judges "became uneasy" with the project and asked Shaw to contact the photographer for more information and clarification.

"Nothing is official here until it is official," Shaw said today, and since the award had not yet been finalized and announced Shaw wrote to Troilo with a series of questions.

The POYi Visual Editing Division judges this year were Meredith Birkett Hogan, Kim Komenich, Stephen Mayes, and Janet Reeves.

In his eMail to Troilo, Shaw said he tried to remain neutral and objective and to ask just for factual details. In the eMail, Shaw says that he asked Troilo:


   * Which pictures did you direct or have control over?

   * Which subjects were actors and which were non-actors?

   * Which scenes were "script-enacted"?


Shaw says that Troilo's replies were "very similar to what he [Troilo] told World Press."

Shaw says that he considers Troilo's eMail reply to be confidential correspondence between the photographer and the contest, but that if Troilo gives permission POYi would gladly release the photographer's responses in the best interest of transparency and photojournalism.

On the final day of multimedia judging, Shaw says he conveyed Troilo's responses to the judges. Three of the four judges, he says, then considered the images to be "too manipulated" to be considered photojournalism. Therefore "The Dark Heart Of Europe" was tossed out and the judges "re-ordered" the winners. Then these winners were announced as their final picks on February 22, 2015.

First place in the category is Lisa Krantz of the San Antonio Express-News for "A Life Apart: The Toll of Obesity." Second place is Mike Kepka, Erin Brethauer, and Judy Walgren of the San Francisco Chronicle for "Mission - Maria Mosqueda," and third place is Jasper Juinen and Rosanne Kropman for "Grey." Robert Gauthier of the Los Angeles Times and Mary I. Stevens of The Denver Post were presented Awards of Excellence.

Shaw said that Troilo explained to him that in some of the scenes he was not "setting up" or "directing" what was happening because, Troilo said, he was merely photographing things that were going on for the benefit of the lens of another photographer. So the people in the photographs, he said, were not acting for his benefit but for the benefit of someone else.

"We are very transparent about the judging, and it is open and normally it would have been Webcast," Shaw told News Photographer magazine today. 

"But because of the snow it was delayed by several days and wasn't Webcast. But if someone would have been sitting [at the open judging] they would have seen the process we went through."

Troilo had entered "The Dark Heart Of Europe" in World Press Photo as a series of still photographs, and initially he was awarded First Place in the Contemporary Issues Story category. After announcing the WPP winners, the mayor of Charleroi, Belgium, wrote a letter to WPP complaining that Troilo's images falsely depicted Charleroi and that his journalism was sloppy. And the mayor chastised WPP for honoring the work. 

WPP investigated the complaint, including a claim that one scene which showed the photographer's cousin having sex with a woman in a parked car had been a set-up. On the photographer's Web site he identified the subject as a relative, and his entry caption information was not as forthcoming. 

WPP concluded the car sex photograph wasn't a set-up (even though the photographer artificially lit and controlled the lighting of the scene) because the photographer's cousin had already planned to have sex with the woman, and therefore he wasn't doing it solely for the benefit of the photographer. 

The photojournalism world's community reacted widely to the WPP finding from both ends of the spectrum, including those who thought WPP's decision was outrageous to those where were in agreement as well as those who were ethically somewhere between the two points.

A few days after WPP confirmed Troilo's award, photographer Bruno Stevens – investigating on his own time – informed World Press that one of the photographs Troilo had identified as having been shot in Charleroi was actually shot some 50km away, in Brussels. 

WPP was once again forced to re-open an investigation into the images, and this time they came away with a finding that Troilo had violated the WPP entry rules and they revoked the award. So then the second place winner, Giulio Di Sturco, was awarded first place.

A special session to discuss ethics in photojournalism has been added to the NPPA Northern Short Course schedule to be held this Friday in Fairfax, VA. NPPA members as well as many non-members abide by NPPA's Code of Ethics in the practice of ethical photojournalism.