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Reflections on the 2015 World Press Photo Awards March 3, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Pakistan.
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Lahore, Pakistan 2013/ Geoffrey Hiller

As both a photographer and the editor of Verve Photo, I feel compelled to add my two cents to the current discussion centering on ‘manipulation’ by one of the World Press Photo (Contemporary Issues category) contest winners, Giovanini Troilo, who was accused of staging his photo essay.

First I’ll speak as a photographer in the field. This question of setting photographs up is a delicate one that I’ll bet all of us can relate to, and have seriously thought about in my own work. For example, there were times when I instinctively knew I had just missed THE SHOT, and I asked the subject in question to ‘just hold it’, or even to repeat a gesture. Reflecting on these situations, I felt as though I was cheating. Most of the time it’s pointless anyway because the genuine moment is gone, never to be repeated again.

As the editor of Verve Photo, I would like to share my editorial process with you. When I see work that strikes a chord in me, I initiate contact with the photographer. The first thing I do when considering anyone’s work is click on the link to his or her website. Even after twenty years of the web, there is a moment of anticipation and excitement while the page loads.

In order to be included on Verve Photo, a photographer must have four strong photo essays. Often it’s clear instantly if the work touches me. What counts is light, composition and moment, as well as intention and authenticity. Most important is the entire body of work, rather than one or two ‘lucky shots’.

Troilo’s images from Belgium titled The Dark Heart of Europe, as intriguing as they are, just don’t have authenticity for me. Even though the photographer got permission from his cousin who is engaging in sex, the situation is a bit too surreal.  As I write this more questions are being voiced about the stated location of the photographs.

What is included on Giovanini Troilo’s website is not photojournalism or documentary work. The Dark Heart of Europe is the only ‘story’ on his site. The rest of the work is illustration and portraiture. This isn’t a value judgement on his work, but if World Press Photo is about photojournalism, I’m confused why this work was ever considered at all for this contest?

March 5th Update

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.

Comments»

1. Reflections on the 2015 World Press Photo Awards - Pixel Stock Photos - March 4, 2015

[…] Geoffrey Hiller Lahore, Pakistan 2013/ Geoffrey Hiller As both a photographer and the editor of Verve Photo, I feel […]

2. Sander de Wilde - March 4, 2015

Thank you for that comment. It is good to know how a photo editor thinks, and I totally agree with you. Best Sander

3. Alec Leggat - March 4, 2015

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. There are lots of tensions inherent in making documentary photography works. I almost said stories there since they have to follow some kind of narrative arc to make a statement and engage the viewer beyond the initial delight at an engaging image. I suppose each photographer has to draw her or his own line between authenticity and truth. Therein lies the identity of the documentarian I suppose. I always go back to W Eugene Smith’s essay on Minimata for guidance and inspiration when I’m thinking about my practice and how it turns out as a visual story.


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