What We Learned This Week: A Guideline For Photojournalism Ethics

Plus a Siberian Gold Mine, the Pirelli Calendar and “Pie Town”


The World Press Photo Organization Lays Out New Ethics Code in Exacting Detail

The 2016 World Press Photo contest won’t be like this year’s.

That, at least, is what the organizers hope.

This week we learned that the World Press Photo organization is changing the wait will run its photojournalism contest next year. The news that grabbed the most attention was the adoption of a new code of ethics, which comes with specific rules against photo manipulation. The move is a response to a scandal surrounding the 2015 contest, in which 20 percent of the entries on the final round of judging were disqualified. One of the winning images, in the Contemporary Issues category, was later disqualified.

The guidelines reveal how complex the idea of photographic veracity has become in the digital age. They call on photographers to refrain from staging events and to avoid being misled into photographing events staged by others, noted PDN. They also warn photographers to make no “material” changes to the content of their images; to provide accurate caption information; to edit stories in a manner that is accurate and fair; and to be open and transparent about how they made the photos they submit to the contest.

What level of photo manipulation is fair? World Press Photo now says it is not acceptable to remove physical marks on the body, small objects in the pictures, reflected light spots, shadows, or extraneous items on a picture’s border that could not be removed by cropping. It is also unacceptable to add elements by cloning highlights, painting in object details, photo montage, or replicating material on the border of a picture to make a neat crop possible.

However, “cropping that removes extraneous details” is permitted and “sensor dust or scratches on scans of negatives” can be removed. The organization says that “processing by itself” does not constitution manipulation. Specifically, “adjustments of color of conversion to grayscale that do not alter content” are permitted.

Entrants are not permitted to make changes in color that “result in significant changes in hue, to such an extend that the processed colors diverge from the original colors.” They are also barred from making changes in “density, contrast, color and/or saturation levels that alter content by obscuring or eliminating backgrounds, and or objects or people in the background of a picture.”

Photographers eligible for the final round of judging will now have to provide a digital raw file or the original unprocessed JPEG file along with the three frames before and after the contest entry, adds the New York Times. These images will be examined by two independent digital experts.

Will the new rules solve photojournalism’s digital problem? The effort to define what is acceptable and what is not is a welcome and overdue first step toward an answer.


Here are other photo stories we spotlighted this week:

1. Photographing Refugees’ “Uncertain Journey”

“After the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, our resolve to help refugees should be stronger than ever,” wrote photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson in the New York Times, where his images of those fleeing war and poverty were featured. Gilbertson recently spent three weeks photographing the refugee crisis in Greece, the Balkans, and Germany, on assignment for Unicef. “Rather than turning them away, the United States and Europe need to fully commit to managing their safe passage, screening and settlement,” declared the photographer.

2. Steve McCurry Photographs the American South

Throughout his storied photojournalism career, Steve McCurry traveled extensively on most of the world’s continents, but he’d never seen much of the American South. Then, two years ago, the writer Paul Theroux told him he was working on a book on the region and invited him to come along, noted Slate. The result is the book Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads. “I was looking for places that still retained some flavor of the South,” said McCurry, who found them by getting off the beaten track.

3. Arthur Drooker Views a Slice of Photo History in “Pie Town”

Pie Town lies on the Continental Divide in New Mexico, about 160 miles southwest of Albuquerque. Population: 70, maybe. It has no stores or sidewalks, but, as photographer Arthur Drooker told PPD back in 2012, it’s a good place to have some pie and view a slice of American life. That’s what FSA photographer Russell Lee did in 1940, thus etching the town into photographic history. Drooker followed in his footsteps for his photo project “Pie Town Revisited,” The work, we noted, has been published in a book from the University of New Mexico Press.

4. Pirelli and the Death of the Pinup

Will 2015 go down as the year the pinup died? The just-released 2016 Pirelli calendar may or mark a cultural shift: The new edition of the calendar dispenses with the pinup photos of supermodels that made it famous, instead featuring Annie Liebovitz’s portraits of women chosen not for their bodies but for their bodies of work, including rock poet Patti Smith, tennis great Serena Williams, comic Amy Schumer and filmmaker Ava DuVernay. The change occurred the same year that Playboy magazine accounted it would be dropping nude pinups, we noted.

5. Inside a Siberian Gold Mine, a Dystopian Vision

The Kupol gold mine is one of the most isolated mines in the world, situated in a remote area of Eastern Siberia in the Russian district of Chukotka. It is staffed by international crew members who work 12-hour days over two-month shifts. Russian documentary photographer Elena Chernyshova visited the mine and, noted the Washington Post, found an ultra-modern facility complete with church. But her images also reminded PPD of a real-life dystopian science-fiction film.


Originally published at AI-AP

David Schonauer is Editor of Pro Photo Daily, Profiles and Motion Arts Pro. Follow him on Twitter. Jeffrey Roberts is Publisher of American Photography (AI-AP) the finest juried collection of photography in hardcover as well as Pro Photo Daily. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter. Follow Pro Photo Daily on Facebook.

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