Amsterdam – World Press Photo withdrew one of its leading global awards for photojournalism on Wednesday after a controversy over standards that focused on allegations about the ethics of an Italian prizewinner.
The Amsterdam-based organization said in a statement that Giovanni Troilo had been disqualified because one of the images in his winning pictorial essay on postindustrial blight in the Belgian city of Charleroi had been shot 50 km away in Brussels.
Disquiet among photojournalists that some images had been staged for the camera gathered pace after Charleroi’s mayor complained that Troilo’s series, “The Dark Heart of Europe,” awarded first prize last month in the Contemporary Issues — Stories category, presented a distorted view of his city.
The judges initially defended the award for pictures that included an image of Troilo’s cousin and a woman having sex in a car, an old woman slumped on a table in a care home, and a couple preparing to host a sex party, with the woman sitting in a cage.
However, on Wednesday they said they had found that a shot of nude models posed by a painter — the models seemed to be preparing to eat a male corpse — was actually taken in the Belgian capital.
“The story was not in compliance with the entry rules and therefore the award must be revoked,” the 60-year-old World Press Photo said in a statement on its Facebook site.
The statement cited Troilo as confirming that the image was not taken in Charleroi.
“The debate taking place about the definitions of press photography, photojournalism and documentary photography is necessary, and it will have implications for the professional ethics of practitioners,” said the institution’s managing director, Lars Boering. “We find ourselves right in the middle of this debate, and we aim to use this as a learning experience.”