World Press Photo Disqualifies Winner

World Press Photo has disqualified one of the winners of this year’s contest after concluding that the photographer digitally manipulated his work. The disqualified entry “Street fighting, Kiev, Ukraine”, shot by Stepan Rudik for the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, had won 3rd prize in Sports Features.

This year, for the first time, photographers were required to submit RAW image files if the judges suspected that photographs were manipulated beyond what the rules allowed. The rule states:

The content of the image must not be altered. Only retouching which conforms to the currently accepted standards in the industry is allowed.

According to the British Journal of Photography, the manipulation involved removing the foot of one of the subjects in a photo.

(via Amateur Photographer)

Update: Stepan Rudik just contacted us with the original photograph and the version he entered in the contest. He says,

Your website gave information about disqualification of my material at the World Press Photo contest. I do NOT argue the decision of the jury.

At the same time, I would like to present the original photograph, from which it is clear that I haven’t made any significant alternation nor removed any important informative detail. The photograph I submitted to the contest is a crop, and the retouched detail is the foot of a man which appears on the original photograph, but who is not a subject of the image submitted to the contest. I believe this explanation is important for my reputation and good name as a reportage photographer. I’d like this picture to be published.

Here is the photograph in question:

It was actually a crop of the following photograph:

It wasn’t the crop, nor the post-processing, that caused the photograph to be disqualified, but the removal of the portion of the foot that is visible between the thumb and fingers of the hand being bandaged. We’ve cropped it ourselves here (Hover your mouse over the image to compare it to the version Rudik submitted):

Do you think the disqualification was justified? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image credit: Photograph by Stepan Rudik

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  • Rossella

    Sorry for my English
    I think that you have to see your mistake before to take pictures. it was a mistake so it's correct they do it.

  • elliecaputo

    In my opinion, back in dark room days, just about everything done with digital manipulation today, could be done back then. I personally don't like the vignette for drama added to the image. the foot in my opinion looked like an obtrusion of the mans hand and was distracting. It did not remove or ad any falseness to the story. But the mood enhancing did. I think it is over done and the foot to me is nothing compared to the drama added to evoke emotion. If you think superimposing wasn't done in the dark room to add things that weren't there, you are sadly mistaken. Photoshop is just a digital version of an old darkroom with some amazing tools to make it all easier. Many of which were used a long time ago with film. I ask that IF the foot was removed but the dark mood hadn't been added, would the foot have been that big of deal? Or is it that together it was all too much? We have questioned the reality and integrity of photos since photos were invented. Photoshop just makes it easier to get the job done these days and with better results.

  • Krzysztof

    For me its obvious manipulation and the disqualification is justified. If we have certain, clear rules one cannot break them. I can't see why he decided to erase the foot. Congrats for jury for good eye!

  • Tycho Müller

    The extreme cropping is a bigger problem than only the little piece of the foot. In the original picture you see the people aswell; a totally different pinture!!

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  • benr

    Cropping is as old as photography itself. Basic darkroom work from a negative could have had an identical effect on contrast and vignetting, and a skilled printer of news photography could have (and frankly, should have) burned the offending detail down to the same tone as the grass in order to better highlight the shape of the hand.

    Rudik was possibly misguided in actually cloning out the detail instead of just darkening it into insignificance, but I think that's really more a consequence of better familiarity with today's tools (Photoshop vs the enlarger).*

    The image accurately captures a real moment (albeit through the filter of a arguably old-fashioned reportage aesthetic), and I feel disqualification is excessive in this case.

    * I will concede that tonal manipulation vs pixel manipulation seems cut and dry right and wrong, but when one sees what sophisticated tonal manipulation (dodging and burning) can achieve without “moving” a single pixel, the case is less clear.

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  • Thomas Cheung

    I agree with the disqualification.

    The photographer retouched the photo, then it changed the fact that another man appear behind.

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  • derkstorm

    Is not cropping removing content?

  • stanyourman

    how the hell did this damn photo even place? its an ok photo after it was manipulated but what does this show? either way terrible that this person would sit there and do so much work on a photo… sad thing is all i see now days are manipulated photos that win photojournalism.

  • wolfie

    No offence but this contest just shows the sad state of the pj photography, the heavy cropping and the tonal manipulations are so common that as you've said there is no any difference do you cut some pixels or not. It is a different image anyway. Most of the winning pictures are the same anyway. Why do they call it pj phto contest is a mystery to me. You can use actors and do the same.

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  • TS

    It *should* indeed be disqualified. If he was a better photographer the foot wouldn't have been in the image in the first place.

    What is the point of a photography contest if you can just make up some collage, or add/remove whatever you like?

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  • Chaucer

    Yes, he did a bad thing retouching out the foot, however, this photograph shouldn’t have ever won this award in the first place, it’s an absolute average nothing photograph…

  • Aaron_ganz

    just remember the essay of david alan harvey ” tell it like it is ” i think that resumes the point of it. you’re suppose to document reality and add your personal touch, your style, not to manipulate in any way that mislead the viewers objectivity. On the first place they should not let anybody crop a picture like this, you can do a minor crop on the edges but that’s it….he got a picture from a bad picture…..that is not documentary photography.

  • Mens Suit

    correct! in contest you must be fair with others!

  • eldams

    but WHAT is so special about this picture ???? Come on People wake up !!!!!!

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  • nathan murrell

    if he was any kind of photographer he would of composed the shot there and then, it’s called ‘le moment decisive’. any idiot can go away after and make an image look better, im glad it’s been disqualified, it sends out a message to photographers that photojournalism has to 110% genuine!

  • Emanwheeler

    The original photo is not that good. Any idiot could have take the shot. He did, however, do a fantastic job in post production by taking a mediocre image and pumping some life into it. An edited (and greatly manipulated) image such as this should be reserved for artistic photographers as several have mentioned before me.

  • Amy

    Wait, we get money?

  • PaulG

    You don’t know much about photography if you really believe this.

    Post-processing has always been part of photography. If the post’ done on this image makes it “not photography” then much of what is called “great photography” is bogus as well.

    Your attempt to espouse some kind of hardcore artistic puritanism only makes you look like a foolish philipstine. Learn something about photography before saying anything else this foolish and misinformed.

    The photo was disqualified on account of the deletion of a photographic element, not because contrast and levels were tweaked. However, I wonder how many revered “journalistic” photos have had elements removed during development?…..

  • Onlychild

    There is a difference between this and tweaking contrast and levels, curves, sharpening etc I’m not denying that. Of course that has to be done due to the nature of digital photography. Its when you start editing far beyond beyond what came out of the camera. Removing something from an image artificially no longer makes that image a photograph. Its a digital image. There is a difference.

    As for ‘journalistic’ photos. Yes they often are made in to ‘Frankenstein’ images, but who is doing that? Is it the photographer themselves or a designer in the layout department? If its been done by someone else, several images masked over each other etc etc etc, is that still a photograph? And who is the creator of that image? The photographer or the digital retoucher?

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  • Jimmy

    @agustindavid: I agree with your point. Winning Crop tips are just relevant in some cases !

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  • Peter

    I think the disqualification process should depend on what the purpose with the picture might be; if it is a report it shouldt be more than minor changes. If the aim is to do a free, artistic work, the photographer should have more margin to alter his/her work. Also if thework is for advertising.

    I guess in the actal case, it would have been ok to darken the disturbinng foot slightly, but to “clean it away” totally is over the limit. We shouldn’t forget that there were great possibilities to influence analog prints in the darkroom as well.

    The border was crossed when photos were manipulated in just this way, but of other reasons, when persons were totally removed because they had fallen into disfavour politically..

    This was common practice in the Soviet sphere, where the aim of photography was a propaganda one. It still is in some some countries; remember the manipulated pcture with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and the discussion it caused?

  • Dimitri Erwitt

    This was never a picture to begin with, blowing it up enough to crop it to what we are left with makes it a non-picture to me. The conversion from color to b&w tells me this photographer never saw the “picture” until it was on a computer screen then blown up and converted. The situation was there and it seems as though no one minded his presence yet the photographer had to go to these lengths in post to get a pretty hackneyed cliche. I remember when you had to get a good photograph with your eye, feet, and feeling. Cropping was to be avoided at all costs. This is what wins prizes these days?

  • Dnil

    So this is an instagrmed entry?

  • Nis Daniel

    yes…. he cropped way too much…. and clone as well.. I agree with judges

  • cognitivedissonance

    Who’s Phillip? I think you meant ‘philistine’. Better spell check before you start pouring out the vitriol. Just sayin’.