The jury of the 58th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected an image by Danish photographer Mads Nissen as the World Press Photo of the Year 2014. Nissen is a staff photographer for the Danish daily newspaper Politiken and is represented by Scanpix and Panos Pictures. The picture shows Jon and Alex, a gay couple, during an intimate moment in St Petersburg, Russia. Life for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people is becoming increasingly difficult in Russia. Sexual minorities face legal and social discrimination, harassment, and even violent hate-crime attacks from conservative religious and nationalistic groups. – via World Press Photo
This is quite an accomplishment for Nissen considering there were over 97,000 entries in the contest. What’s more, 20 percent of finalists were disqualified for excessive manipulation that went above and beyond what is considered acceptable industry standards. Lars Boering, World Press Photo’s new managing director says it like this:
It seems some photographers can’t resist the temptation to aesthetically enhance their images during post-processing either by removing small details to ‘clean up’ an image, or sometimes by excessive toning that constitutes a material change to the image. Both types of retouching clearly compromise the integrity of the image. Consequently, the jury rejected 20 percent of those entries that had reached the penultimate round of the contest and were therefore not considered for prizes.”
World Press Photo had recently released a report on image manipulation and industry standards. Again from Boering:
There is clearly an urgent need to take this matter further. Over the coming months, we will be engaging in further dialogue with the international photojournalistic community to explore what we can learn from all this, and how we can create a deeper understanding of issues involved in the application of post-processing standards in professional photojournalism. Together we should find common ground about these standards and find out how they are changing. We will take the lead on this as it is a great concern to World Press Photo. We want to keep the standards high.”
Congratulations to Mads Nissen for an extraordinary image and to World Press Photo for holding everyone to a higher standard. It pleases me to no end to see an organization like World Press Photo taking on this issue and making sure that photojournalism remains relevant and doesn’t get sucked into the mediocrity that we see in nearly every category. It’s equally as important that photojournalism remains actual photojournalism and not just a manufactured image that is simply there to convey what an author would like a story to be — instead of conveying the actual truth.