The 2016 World Press Photo contest will be carried out with new rules, guidelines and procedures, organizers announced today in Amsterdam. The changes include a new code of ethics, backed by more specific rules against photo manipulation, as well as other changes.
The new code of ethics reflects the World Press Photo Foundation’s efforts at reform and transparency, undertaken in the wake of a photo manipulation scandal last year that led to the disqualification of 20 percent of the final round entries, and the revocation of a first-place prize in the Contemporary Issues category.
“We want the audience to have trust in the accuracy of the pictures that win awards and are shown in our exhibition, so, for the first time, the contest has a code of ethics that sets out what we expect from entrants,” World Press Photo managing director Lars Boering said in a prepared statement.
Entries for the 2016 World Press Photo competition are due by January 13, 2016, at noon Central European Time.
The new code of ethics calls on photographers entering the contest not to stage events, and to avoid being misled into photographing events staged by others; to make no “material” changes to the content of their images; to provide accurate caption information; to edit stories in a manner that is accurate and fair; and to be open and transparent about how they made the photos they enter in the World Press Photo contest.
In support of that code, the new rules define illegal manipulation as “staging or re-enacting events” and “adding or removing content from the image.”
For example, World Press Photo says it is not acceptable to remove physical marks on the body, small objects in the pictures, reflected light spots, shadows, or extraneous items on a picture’s border that could not be removed by cropping. It is also unacceptable to add elements by cloning highlights, painting in object details, photo montage, or replicating material on the border of a picture to make a neat crop possible.
But “cropping that removes extraneous details is permitted” and “sensor dust or scratches on scans of negatives can be removed,” the 2016 rules say. They also say that “processing by itself” does not constitution manipulation. Specifically, “adjustments of color of conversion to grayscale that do not alter content are permitted,” the new rules say.
However, entrants are not permitted to make changes in color that “result in significant changes in hue, to such an extend that the processed colors diverge from the original colors.” Entrants are also barred from making changes in “density, contrast, color and/or saturation levels that alter content by obscuring or eliminating backgrounds, and or objects or people in the background of a picture.”
Those new rules replace a 2009 anti-manipulation rule that was more general, and left much more to the interpretation and judgment of contest entrants. It stated, “The content of an image must not be altered. Only retouching that conforms to currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed.”
To help explain the new rules, World Press Photo says it will post videos today on its website showing examples of photo processing that are permitted, as well as videos showing examples of image color and content alterations that are not permitted.
World Press Photo says it will enforce the rules by requiring all entrants whose images make it to the final rounds of judging to submit original camera images for comparison with entry images. The organization says it has contracted with two independent forensic analysts to check those entries for illegal manipulation.
Meanwhile, World Press Photo is also instituting new rules to require more complete caption information.
Captions must be written in English, and “must be accurate and answer the basic questions of good journalism,” according to the new rules. The first sentence of every image caption must describe who is in the photo, what is going on, where (city, region or state, and country) the picture was made, and when. The second sentence must give context to the news event or describe why the photo is significant. And the last sentence “must explain the circumstances in which a photograph was taken,” including whether the photographer “influenced the scene in any way, or gave directions to a subject,” if the photograph is a portrait.
The new rules governing captions and manipulation directly address the controversy last year surrounding photographer Giovanni Troilo’s “Dark Heart of Europe” project. Troilo won first prize for the project in the Contemporary Issues category, only to have the prize revoked after questions arose on social media about whether he staged some of the photos–most notably one image showing a couple having sex in a parked car. One of the subjects turned out to be Troilo’s cousin, and Troil said he placed a flashlight in the car with the subjects’ consent to help him light the picture.
Troilo successfully argued the photo wasn’t staged because his photograph depicted something his subjects normally do. But his prize was eventually revoked on the grounds that he provided inaccurate caption information. In particular, not all of the images in the series were made where he said they had been made.
The new code of ethics and the complete contest rules will be available today on the World Press Photo website.
World Press Photo says it is initiating a new contest category called Long Term Projects—Group, for projects on a single theme shot by two or more photographers over at least three different years. The entries to that category must include 24 to 30 photographs, and at least four of them must have been shot in 2015.
World Press says that in addition to paying travel and lodging expenses to bring first-prize winner in each category to the awards ceremony in Amsterdam, it will also invite second and third prize winners, and pay their travel and lodging expenses, too. “This will help make the Awards Days [a] more significant and inclusive public event for debates and discussion,” World Press says.
The awards ceremony and related events are scheduled to take place in Amsterdam on April 22 and 23.
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