The CEWE Photo Awards has suspended the overall winner of its 2023 competition after the photographer provided “untrue and misleading information.”
In a world exclusive last month, PetaPixel broke the news that the winning photo of the “world’s largest photo competition” was staged and now the CEWE Photo Awards organizers have taken action.
“The photo selected by the jury as the overall winner, as well as the winner of the ‘People’ category, is — contrary to the photographer’s statement — not an authentic shot but was created in a studio as a staged scene,” a CEWE spokesperson tells PetaPixel in a statement.
CEWE points out that staged photographs are not in direct violation of the competition’s terms and conditions; however, the misleading information provided by the photographer led them to suspend her award.
“The photographer provided untrue and misleading information regarding the creation of the photograph to us and to the jury president of the CEWE Photo Award on stage during the award ceremony, thus misleading the public. This contradicts the values that CEWE stands for as a company.”
CEWE also adds that there are “legal questions” surrounding the usage rights of the photo with the photographer “not satisfactorily” answering questions related to this and has “failed to submit appropriate documents establishing her as the owner of the usage rights.”
Therefore, CEWE has suspended the award “until the legal situation concerning the photo is fully clarified.” The German photo printing company will not display the photo on its website or use it in any other CEWE media.
The photo in question, Warung Kopi, was taken by Indonesian photographer Dikye Ariani and is supposed to show a proprietress of a traditional cafe playing cards with a group of “men from the village after a hard day’s work in the rice fields.”
However, PetaPixel learned the presentation of the image as a documentary photo was demonstrably false.
The photos were in fact taken at a conceptual photo shoot held at a studio to mark the launch of a camera on November 20, 2022, in Bogor, Indonesia. The woman in the photo is the mother of an employee who works at the studio and regularly appears in themed photo shoots at the studio.
Ariani was not the only photographer present at the workshop and multiple other photographers shared their work from the same event showing very similar photos.
Writing for PetaPixel, Asia-based travel photographer Etienne Bosson says that what happened is “far from an isolated case.”
“In the era of digital photography, staging scenes to win competitions has become disturbingly common. The question that begs an answer is why these staged photos continue to seize victory in contests, even when they perpetrate a breach of trust with both judges and audiences by blurring the line between art and deception,” he says.
The CEWE Photo Awards statement in full:
The photo selected by the jury as the overall winner, as well as the winner of the “People” category, is – contrary to the photographer’s statement – not an authentic shot but was created in a studio as a staged scene. We were made aware of this by external photographers.
Staged photographs are not a violation of our terms and conditions. However, the photographer provided untrue and misleading information regarding the creation of the photograph to us and to the jury president of the CEWE Photo Award on stage during the award ceremony, thus misleading the public. This contradicts the values that CEWE stands for as a company.
Furthermore, legal questions arise regarding the usage rights of the photo. The photographer has not satisfactorily answered these questions and failed to submit appropriate documents establishing her as the owner of the usage rights.
We will therefore suspend the award status until the legal situation concerning the photo is fully clarified. Meanwhile, the photo will no longer be displayed by us on our website or other CEWE media.”