Too Many Awards

Without wanting to add unnecessarily to the voluminous coverage of Souvid Datta’s fall from grace, there is one aspect of this story that seems to have been largely overlooked.

Datta’s website (now only accessible via Wayback Machine) lists no fewer than 25 awards given over a three year period, including from significant agencies within the photographic world like Magnum Photos, The Pulitzer Centre and Getty.

While Datta himself is solely responsible for his actions and is deservedly being called to account for his dishonesty, I can’t help feeling that the photographic industry, with its endless competitions, honours and awards should also be looking at itself.

These awards often offer monetary benefit. Even if they don’t do so directly, in granting photographic credibility, they enhance the winner’s profile and employability. Given this, it should hardly come as a surprise when some photographers, often operating in an environment with little accountability, are tempted to cheat in order to get the recognition and the funding that comes from winning awards.

While there is a need for well managed and directed bursaries to support good photography, perhaps there should be less emphasis on the awards and prizes. Too often these are more about mutual beneficial publicity than about encouraging good photography.

Meanwhile, those photographers — particularly documentary photographers — who labour outside the circuit of mutual back slapping find their own integrity potentially compromised every time something like this happens.