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

  • margaret

    the crop & post processing completely affects the mood & intention of the original. A wide, color, almost snap shot is not the same as a moody black & white detail shot. The retouching seems yet another issue. I thought cropping etc should not change the original intent of the photo. If the photographer wanted this
    final product shouldn’t he have chosen a different lens, etc ?

  • Rusty Sterling

    The crop is extreme. The toning is really way beyond what would be considered normal. Cloning out the foot really does violate the integrity of photojournalism. I’d disqualify it.

  • anonomatic

    Very clearly cloned out the foot. He should have just burned it in a lot and not crossed the line.

  • devtank

    I think this years WPP Comp is basically setting precedent for photographers to follow in future, and they are making a serious statement about it.
    I think Ultimately at the end of the day there is no real need to have modified this particular image to remove the foot.
    I think that most photographers from this point forward will get the point about image manipulation regardless of the severity of it. This is, afterall, a competition about press photography/photojournalists work, and there are deadly serious ethical codes regarding writing and photography when it comes to press work, and its there for a reason.
    Truth and credibility must be maintained to the highest degree.

  • devtank

    “Rudik merely removed a distraction and did not in any way compromise the truth of the story he illustrated.” Correct, he didn’t, but its the precedent that is made if even one photographer is knowingly allowed to do it.

  • Eric M

    He should have seen it before snapping and moved his cam 0.05 mm to make sure the foot was behind the hand. That’s what we used to do before the “fix it in post” paradigm

  • Bianca Lecompte

    Had this been any other contest, the disqualification would be arguable but since we are talking about photojournalism it is significantly modified for the nature of this contest. Matter of fact, I’d highly question that crop he did as it doesn’t seem like the original focus of the image. Never the less the finished picture is beautiful. WPP has to keep a certain standard.

  • Anthony Epes

    Most certainly the correct decision. It’s photojournalism, not a Photoshop contest. Looking at the original image I’m surprised it qualified at all. I personally I would be ashamed to submit an image that was cropped so heavily. I would ask myself “is this the best I can do?”, whatever.