World Press Photo becomes stricter after 2015 controversy

Winning photo 'Hope for a New Life'

 NAPLES -- As the prestigious neoclassical villa Pignatelli opened its doors inaugurating the World Press Photo 2016 edition, Neapolitans were present to witness the 150 significant shots chosen by World Press Photo jury under stricter rules after contest controversies engulfed 2015.

 Published in many international magazines like Time, Le Monde, New York Times, The Guardian and National Geographic, the travelling exhibit, that hosts over four million visitors every year, assures a voyage through images of the most significant events of our time.

 With a predominant theme this year of the war in Syria and refugees, the show forces viewers to face the most pertinent issues of our planet today.

 Photographer of the 2016 photo of the year award is Australian freelancer Warren Richardson who won for his 'Hope for a New Life' black-and-white photograph that captures the moment in which a man manages to hand over a newborn through a hole in a razor wire to a Serbian refugee who has already crossed the border from Serbia to Hungary, near Röszke, Aug. 28, just weeks before Hungary completed construction on a four-meter-high barrier fence along the entire length of the frontier with Serbia, to close off border crossings through all but official routes.

 "After five days in the refugee camp, I saw a group of around 200 people who were moving about and hiding among the trees, along the barbed-wire fence,” explains the photojournalist. “Women, children and the elderly were walking in the front. It was around three in the morning when I took the photo without using the flash because I didn’t want to draw the attention of the police on the people there,” he concluded.

 After contest controversy last year resulted in the elimination of Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo’s 10-photo series entitled “The Dark Heart of Europe,”the 2016 contest introduced more severe rules for captions and touch-ups. The winning reportage was stripped of its fresh award due to the alleged staging of an intimate scene in Charleroi, Belgium, with previously set-up lighting that broke contest rules.

 World Press Photo regulations state -- “staging is defined as something that would not have happened without the photographer’s involvement.” Many photojournalists believed that Mr. Troilo had crossed a line. “Having a photographer involved with the subject working towards a final image has a place in photography -- it is in portraiture,” said Greg Marinovich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer from South Africa who has served on the World Press Photo jury twice.

 Besides the jpeg images, the annually selectedjury now also demands a RAW format of the shots snapped to ensure authenticity of work submitted.World Press Photo Director Mr. Boering said the controversy was a chance to add more transparency to the process. “I want it to be a proper debate,” he said. “The changes in photojournalism and documentary photography are fast and it’s hard for everyone to keep up.”

 The World Press Photo Foundation began in 1955 by a group of Dutch photographers. With an annual contest that heralds the best photos, it has become one of the main international associations for the development and promotion of photojournalism. Having grown continuously since its first annual edition, it is currently considered as one of the most prestigious awards for photo reporters all over the world, attracting over 80,000 images from professionals around the globe.

 Freedom of press, research and expression are the main focus today, above all in the field of quality photojournalism. The main objective of the foundation is to support professional photography on an international level, stimulate its development, encourage the transfer of knowledge, favour high professional standards and promote free exchange without press restrictions.

 Thousands of photo reporters each year contend the title World Press Photo in several different categories (general news, spot news, contemporary issues, daily life, portraits, nature and sports) hoping to win the first prize that attracts millions of visitors throughout the five continents.

 The exhibit is open from Nov. 4 - 27 in Villa Pignatelli, via Chiaia 200, Naples.

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Warren Richardson, Australian freelance photographer, winner of the award