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World Press Photo’s Photo of the Year isn’t a hard-news shot: It’s a John Stanmeyer image that shows people in Africa raising their cell phones in search of a signal from a neighboring country.
But Stanmeyer’s “win was overshadowed by the disclosure that 8 percent of the finalists’ images were disqualified because information had been removed after processing,” James Estrin writes in The New York Times.
An outside expert studied the raw and jpeg files and found evidence indicating that information had been removed through cloning or extreme toning, said Gary Knight, the jury chairman. He said it was obvious that the offending images were “materially and substantially changed.”
Knight told Olivier Laurent of the British Journal of Photography that in contrast to previous years, “most of these important stories were photographed by very few photographers. You didn’t have depth in each issue and each event.” Editing was also lacking, Knight said:
“If you look at the organisations that have won awards – National Geographic, The New York Times, AP, AFP and Reuters – it’s evident that there’s very few [institutions] left that can still afford to provide resources to photographers. I’m seeing in these awards the real-life consequence of the lack of resources that photographers have to go out into the world and cover stories with any depth at all.”
Knight told Estrin he’d asked to be removed from the final judging because he and Stanmeyer founded the agency VII, but the contest’s rules “did not allow for it,” Estrin writes. But Knight’s “lament and warning about the dominating impact of ‘Big Photo’ is, in my mind, the largest story to come out of World Press Photo 2014,” a post on BagNews reads.
If the industry is so weak, and the (independent) photographers are so scarce, and the subject matter by non-corporate entities so thin, I’m less worried about Mr. Knight of VII voting for Mr. Stanmeyer of VII, than Mr. Knight voting for Mr. Stanmeyer, who has been shooting for National Geographic for a decade.
Some more winning shots (all captions via World Press Photo):