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World Press Photo Contest announces new Code of Ethics

World Press Photo Contest announces new Code of Ethics

© Bas de Meijer / Hollandse Hoogte for World Press Photo

November 2015

In recent years, the photographic industry has called for clearer criteria on entering and judging World Press Photo Contest submissions. The World Press Photo Foundation has answered this call for the 2016 Photo Contest by publishing a new code of ethics, revised entry rules, and a transparent description of the judging and verification processes. The 2016 Photo Contest changes are part of a new strategy which the World Press Photo Foundation devised during a five-month review involving 17 consultations with photographers, editors and publishers at events in 15 locations worldwide.

Entries to the highly anticipated annual World Press Photo Contest are regarded as visual documents and are therefore expected to be an accurate and fair representation of the scene the photographer witnessed. The first entry rule concerning manipulation was enforced in 2009 and in the 2014 Photo Contest World Press Photo began requesting photographers submit original camera files. The challenge being addressed now is making contest participants more aware of what counts as manipulation.

© Marieke van der Velden
© Marieke van der Velden

Managing Director Lars Boering: "We cannot accept the addition or removal of content, even if it is just ‘tidying up the image’.”

Managing Director of World Press Photo, Lars Boering, says: “In the past two years 33 entries, out of a total of 240 in the second last round, were excluded, and one story was disqualified after the award. If we want pictures to be documents and evidence, we cannot accept the addition or removal of content, even if it is just ‘tidying up the image’.”

As photographs are at risk for manipulation during every stage in the photographic process – capture, production, publication, and circulation – the World Press Photo Foundation has introduced a new code of ethics and committed to continued use of independent digital analysts and a fact-checking team to review original camera files, metadata and caption accuracy.

Entry requirements

“It is important to stress that processing by itself is not manipulation,” states World Press Photo. That said, the new code of ethics shows that sensible cropping, sensor dust and scratches on negatives are among the few alterations in content permitted for contest entrants. Some level of colour correction as well as conversion to greyscale is accepted but changes which diverge from the original colour or obscure objects and/or people in the background of a picture are viewed as manipulation.

Those entries that have made it to the second to last round of judging will be checked for manipulation. Entrants who are eligible for the fifth and final round of judging are required to provide original camera files which World Press Photo will then pass on to two independent digital analysts. If unacceptable modifications are found, a 36-hour timeframe begins where entrants are given a chance to explain the apparent alteration. From 2016 onwards, entrants whose work has been excluded for altering content in two contests will be prevented from entering the contest for the next five years.

Captions will also be under strict scrutiny; requirements are outlined in the revised entry rules. As well as giving attribution for action not seen, providing sourced context of an event, the photographer must also state if he/she influenced the scene in any way. In the contest’s Portrait category which has been renamed as People, photographers must disclose in the caption if they “gave directions to a subject to pose in any way for a portrait”. Eligible photographs will be subject to an independent fact-checking team who will determine the completeness and accuracy of the captions.

What else is new?

The World Press Photo Contest has introduced an entirely new category: Long-Term Projects – Group. Entrants can now submit a photo essay which has been shot over a period of at least three years by two or more photographers.

For the first time all category prize winners (1st/2nd/3rd) will be invited to the awards and have travel and accommodation expenses covered by the World Press Photo Foundation. In addition, usage rights that applied to the Photo Of The Year winner will now apply to all awarded pictures.

To determine the photo contest winners, five specialised juries as well as one general jury deliberate independently of the World Press Photo Foundation during a two week judging process. For the first time, the complete judging procedures handbook has been made publicly available. Find the handbook, entry requirements, as well as explanatory videos on the World Press Photo website here.

Aside from the Photo Contest, the World Press Photo Foundation has announced that it will launch a standalone website in 2016, with its own publication name, which will act as a forum to investigate and report on visual stories.

Lars Boering concludes: “Now our team is looking forward to pushing ahead with building the online channel so we can showcase great stories and new approaches, lead debate, and connect visual journalists with the global audience that wants and needs their work.”

How to enter

The 2016 World Press Photo Contest will be open for participants to enter their work on 2 December 2015. The deadline for submissions is 13 January 2016, 23.59 (CET). Entries may only be submitted online via the World Press Photo entry website. A username and password are required to enter and can be requested until 7 January 2016, 23.59 (CET).

  • World Press Photo receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and is sponsored worldwide by Canon.