SOURCE: Adorama


December 29, 2015 07:00 ET

Adorama, World Press Photo Explores Ethics of Digital Photo Manipulation

An Article Published Recently in Adorama Learning Center Discusses the World Press Photo's Growing Concern That Digital Tools and Photo Manipulation Techniques Are Threatening the Credibility of Photojournalism

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Dec 29, 2015) - Adorama, one of the world's largest photography, video and audio, imaging and electronics retailers, recently explored the ethics that govern digital post production in photojournalism. In an article published in Adorama Learning Center (ALC), writer, photographer, and ALC contributor Hutton Marshall noted that ever-advancing digital tools and sophisticated photo manipulation techniques were threatening the credibility of photojournalism as a profession.

The controversy over accurate representation in photojournalism was highlighted earlier this year when the Amsterdam-based World Press Photo Foundation (WPP) stripped the first place prize from the winner, Giovanni Troilo, after it was revealed that he misrepresented the location of one of the photos in his 10-part series, "The Dark Heart of Europe."

Marshall went on to highlight the WPP's newly released "Photo Contest Code of Ethics," which states that entrants to the World Press Photo contest must ensure that their photos provide an accurate representation of the scenes they witnessed to avoid misleading the audience. Marshall also explored the distinction between objective representation and photo manipulation.

WPP Reinforces Commitment to Accuracy in Photojournalism

The WPP -- which hosts one of the world's most highly regarded photo contests -- did not just stop at stripping the first place prize from Troilo, who was also accused of staging scenes and distorting social situations. The Foundation also announced that 20 percent of its finalists had been disqualified for violating its post-production rules. 

In total, 22 entries were rejected at the final stages of the 2015 World Press Photo Contest. Twenty were rejected for the addition or removal of details, and two were rejected as the original files were not made available for the jury's verification.

The WPP's "Photo Contest Code of Ethics" reinforces the Foundation's commitment to accurate representation in press photography:

Entrants to the World Press Photo contest must ensure their pictures provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene they witnessed so the audience is not misled.

This means that entrants:
1. Should be aware of the influence their presence can exert on a scene they photograph, and should resist being misled by staged photo opportunities.
2. Must not intentionally contribute to, or alter, the scene they picture by re-enacting or staging events.
3. Must maintain the integrity of the picture by ensuring there are no material changes to content.
4. Must ensure captions are accurate.
5. Must ensure the editing of a picture story provides an accurate and fair representation of its context.
6. Must be open and transparent about the entire process through which their pictures are made, and be accountable to the World Press Photo Foundation for their practice.

At What Point Does Post-Production Editing Constitute Misrepresentation?

In May 2015, the WPP hosted a panel to discuss its current standards for post-processing. WPP Managing Director Lars Boering opened the session by showcasing images that had been digitally manipulated in a manner similar to that of the rejected photos. Whether it was the removal of a cigarette butt or the tinting of a window, Boering stressed the importance of avoiding edits that might compromise accuracy.

Marshall also referenced renowned British photojournalist Don McCullin's interview with The Guardian, in which McCullin blasted digital photography as "a total lying experience" unworthy of trust.

As noted by the WPP in its recent panel, it is up to photojournalists and the organizations they represent to stick to a strong code of ethics even as technological tools and the temptation to distort reality have become stronger.

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