By Donald R. Winslow
ATHENS, GA (March 4, 2015) – The leaders of World Press Photo just announced that based on new evidence, they have revoked the controversial First Place award given to Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo for his series of photographs entered in this year's WPP Contemporary Issues Story category.
"The conclusion is that the story was not in compliance with the entry rules and therefore the award must be revoked," World Press just announced.
The decision came today in Amsterdam after WPP managing director Lars Boering said yesterday that they had re-opened the investigation into Troilo's pictures "based on new information."
That new information was apparently the discovery by Belgian photojournalist Bruno Stevens that one of the photographs in Troilo's winning entry was not shot where he claimed it was shot. Instead, it was taken at a location some 50km away, in Brussels. Stevens had posted the information about the shot's location on his Facebook page where it was picked up by journalists who are reporting on the WPP controversy.
"Troilo confirmed over telephone and email that the image had not been taken in Charleroi, contrary to what he submitted to the contest. This falsified information is a violation of the 2015 Photo Contest entry rules," World Press said in their statement. The photograph had actually been shot in Molenbeek.
In accordance with the judging procedures, which state that a single image or story/portfolio that has been awarded a prize will be disqualified if proven to be not in compliance with the entry rules, World Press Photo made the decision to disqualify the story, they said today.
Due to the award being revoked, the second prize story "Chollywood" by another Italian photographer, Giulio Di Sturco, will now be awarded first prize and the third prize story will be awarded a second prize. As a result, World Press said in their statement, there will be no third prize awarded in the Contemporary Issues category.
In addition, as a result of the World Press Photo ethics controversy this week Jean Francois Leroy, director of the Visa pour l'Image annual photography festival in Perpignan, France, announced that due to the circumstances he will not exhibit World Press Photo winning images at the festival this coming summer.
It's only been three days since WPP took a controversial ethics stand when they "confirmed" the award to Troilo as the First Place winner of the Contemporary Issues Story category in the aftermath of their first investigation into his images, and the captions, and the contradictions between what Troilo published in text on his personal Web site versus his captions in the contest entry.
The original investigation was into whether Troilo's photograph of his cousin having sex with a woman in a parked car was a "set-up" photograph, and therefore unethical as well as grounds for WPP disqualification.
In a confusing and seemingly contradictory initial finding, WPP said that the photograph was not unethical because the photographer's cousin was already planning to have sex with the woman anyway, and therefore it was not being done solely for the benefit of the photographer, and that the photographer lighting the car's interior with a flashlight while the couple had sex was an accepting methodology. In the same finding, WPP leaders reiterated that setting up photographs is unethical and grounds for disqualification.
Many in the photojournalism community responded to the finding with confoundment, asking why, if set-ups are unethical in WPP's view, that Troilo's sex photograph – as well as other questionable circumstances in his winning portfolio – were not sufficient grounds for disqualification. WPP's response was set-ups are indeed unethical and grounds for disqualification, but that Troilo was not guilty of setting up the picture.
Also, in their initial investigation which ended in confirming Troilo's award, WPP said the information about the photographs had been available to the WPP jury chair and panel at the time of the judging, and therefore that photographer had not attempted to mislead or deceive anyone with false information or by withholding details.
The controversy started after WPP named this year's winners and picked Troilo's "The Dark Heart Of Europe" as the First Place winner of the Contemporary Issues Story category. Troilo's entry implied that all of the photographs were shot in Charleroi, Belgium. Paul Magnette, the mayor of Charleroi, responded with a letter to WPP jury chair Michele McNally of The New York Times saying the images were "profoundly dishonest," and asked WPP to withdraw the award. Magnette wrote to WPP that Troilo's photographs were "a serious distortion of reality that undermines the city and its inhabitants, as well as the profession of photojournalism."
First revealed on a French web site, journalist Olivier Laurent at Time picked up on the story and exposed it on Time's LightBox feature. WPP then confirmed receiving the mayor's letter and the first investigation soon followed.
After that, WPP issued a statement on March 1 where they re-confirmed Troilo's award, saying that the photographer had not tried to deceive the WPP jury and had not technically staged a photograph since his cousin already had existing plans to have sex in a car, and wasn't doing it for just for the benefit of the photographer.
Then today, four days after that re-confirmation, WPP pulled the award.