Service of Sticking to the Rules

May 4th, 2015

Categories: Competition, Fair and Square, Justice, Photography

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I read about an Italian photographer–Giovanni Troilo–whose first prize in the Contemporary Issues category was revoked by the organizers of the World Press Photo competition because he’d staged the winning images in his “The Dark Heart of Europe” series. Staging was against the competition’s rules.

First PrizeHenri Neuendorf reported in “World Press Photo Winner Giovanni Troilo Busted for Faking and Stripped of Prize,” on artnet.com: “In a statement Lars Boering, the managing director of the Amsterdam-based organization, said ‘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.’” Neuendorf credited The New York Times with breaking the story.

What did he do? Troilo lit the back seat of a car in one of the photos of a couple supposedly making love. Turns out the man was his cousin. Another was staged in a Brussels photo studio, not in the town supposedly featured: Charleroi, Belgium. How was he discovered? Because the Charleroi Mayor saw his photo essay and objected to the negative portrayal of his town and observed that some of the photos weren’t even taken there.

styling photo shootWhat interested me was that other photojournalists felt he should have nevertheless been awarded his first prize. Neuendorf wrote: “New York-based photographer Yunghi Kim conceded ‘I don’t fault the photographer, it just seems World Press is having an identity crisis.’”

Do you agree with Kim–that there was wiggle room to let Troilo keep his first prize and that the competition’s judges were too harsh? Or was World Press Photo competition management correct in awarding the prize to the second place photographer?

no big deal

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11 Responses to “Service of Sticking to the Rules”

  1. ASK Said:

    No, there was no wiggle room…I think the jury was right. Photojournalism is just that: the photographer capturing an event, happening, or emotion as it occurs, not as it is staged. And having been to Charleroi, I can say it is hardly a “gritty” town. But, Mr. Troilo has managed to get himself a great deal of publicity over the episode.

  2. Hank Goldman Said:

    As always, a huge topic. Small children seem to like the rules, and strict adherence to them, such as in games…”No fair, no fair, you cheated.”

    Then there appears the adult middle ground… Such as off shore corporation tax shelters! Legal yes …playing by the rules, maybe… Ethical? A huge question mark. In my mind, this topic is closely related to a previous post of yours, the one about “cutting corners”.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:

    ASK,

    I’m with you. Had it been an exam and had I brought in my smartphone with access to Google and other research tools when nobody else was allowed to, should I be given the highest grade? Would the other students shrug? Doubt it.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Hank,

    Guess I’m a kid at heart as I believe in following the rules in competitions–period.

    As for ethics and legality, I fall on the side of ethics but I’m not sure that’s the American way these days and it’s not the way to riches for sure.

  5. Simon Carr Said:

    For me this is clear cut. If you play a game or enter a contest, you play by the rules, or you lose.

    What is more troubling is when you sit on a jury and a judge tells you that he will interpret the Law, and your job is determine whether it has been broken or not. What do you do when you think the defendant did no wrong, but according to the judge’s interpretation, he clearly broke the Law.

    I know. You are supposed to change the Law, but in our society, where the very few control the apparatus which makes the Law, and use it to benefit the very few, that does not happen.

    And what about the innocent man or woman who has been unfairly punished?

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Simon,

    What a creative thought! I have far more often heard of people with deep pockets and canny attorneys who break the law and are incredibly unethical but are let off the hook based on a technicality.

    The thought of those unfairly punished gives me the shivers. DNA technology seems to have caused the release of many who have spent years in jail. Horrendous.

    As long as there are wealthy, powerful lobbies and politicians who need $millions to win an election, changing laws to be fair is highly unlikely.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    Rescinding the prestigious World Press Photo award given to Giovanni Troilo, who clearly and unequivocally violated the rules of the contest and of photojournalism, was absolutely justified. .There is no room for leeway. Staged photos and mise-en-scenes are not photojournalism. There is no room for creative interpretation of the meaning of the rules of the contest or of its purpose. To accept this work as prizewinning photojournalism is beyond doublespeak and becomes ludicrous. It goes well beyond some of our most famous politician’s “mispoken” untruths. I am in total agreement with ASK and Jeanne.

    The photographer’s manipulations suggest a cynicism, laziness, and perhaps inability to do the job of a photojournalist with the sufficient imagination, creativity and technical proficiency to produce work with genuine impact. Furthermore, in an age where the public is more cynical and mistrusting of the manipulation of any and all information by all branches of the press this is a terrible blow to the perception of photojournalism and journalism per se.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    We can’t get into Mr. Troilo’s mind though “What was he thinking?” comes to mine….He should have entered a different category in the competition. One wonders if he is that great a photojournalist if he can’t capture something wonderful when walking down enough streets.

    I think of wedding photographers who line everyone up and that’s all they do so they miss the great hugs or happy smiles they’d find if they’d walk around the reception and, if allowed, the church, temple or synagogue. I’ve seen it happen–drives me nuts. Granted the stiff lineup shots have their place so that bride and groom are sure Aunt Matilda and Uncle Max didn’t travel across the globe and not appear in at least one. A friend who is a grandfather was crushed when he wasn’t in a single photo taken at his favorite grandchild’s wedding. Little ruffled his feathers but I could tell he was hurt.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Rules are usually meant to be broken, but not here. A fair contest demands that participants play within prescribed parameters, one of which prohibits staging. It’s usually fine to bend strictures in the interests of creativity, but to bend them in order to give an unfair advantage is wrong.

    Were the contest to be held permitting staging, the winner may not have been the same. It’s a shame he was stripped of the prize. He should have stepped down of his own accord, or better yet, not “cheated” in the first place.

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    I have nothing to add to your response as you echo my reaction only better said. Say he didn’t know what “photojournalism” was or that he misunderstood the rules because he was given a poor translation in a language in which he was only vaguely familiar–he could have admitted what happened and no harm done. As ASK noted in her comment, he received plenty of publicity. Some feel that any publicity is just great no matter what. I wonder.

  11. Lucrezia Said:

    One of a contestant’s first tasks is to read and then understand the rules. If unwilling to follow instructions and/or not understand them is no excuse.

    It’s true that bad publicity is usually better than none – but this is a different issue.

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