World Press Photo Winner Giovanni Troilo Busted for Faking and Stripped of Prize

The artist is accused of misleading the jury.

The World Press Photo competition has disqualified the Italian photographer Giovanni Troilo, the New York Times reports. After several days of controversy and intense scrutiny, the jury decided that he had broken the competition’s rules by staging some of the shots from his first prize-winning photo series The Dark Heart of Europe, which documents life in the industrial Belgian city of Charleroi.

The series was initially awarded the top prize in the Contemporary Issues category, but this has now gone to Mads Nissen, who also won the “Photo of the Year” award for his touching image of a Russian gay couple (see Photo of Gay Russian Lovers Wins World Press Photo of the Year).

In a statement Lars Boering, the managing director of the Amsterdam-based organization, said “We now have a clear case of misleading information and this changes the way the story is perceived. A rule has now been broken, and a line has been crossed.”

The initial investigation into Troilo’s entry started after the Mayor of Charleroi wrote to World Press Photo complaining that the series negatively portrayed his city, and that some of the photographs were staged.

Shortly afterwards a fierce debate broke out when it emerged that one of the subjects in Troilo’s photo depicting a couple having sex on the back seat of a car, was in fact the photographer’s cousin. Troilo was also found to have placed a flash in the car to illuminate the vehicle from within. Critics were quick to accuse Troilo of staging the shot, thus violating competition rules.

The photographer also admitted that one of his entered photos depicting the Belgian artist Vadim Vosters was taken in the artist’s studio in a Brussels suburb, not in Charleroi. Troilo insisted that the shot was not an attempt to deliberately mislead the jury, rather it was a “mistake” that occurred when his assistant was writing captions under time pressure before the submission deadline.

Troilo labelled the jury’s decision “a big injustice,” and accused the World Press Photo organization of using “an exit strategy” to avoid further controversy. However competition rules state that “staging is defined as something that would not have happened without the photographer’s involvement.”

Meanwhile there has been a mixed reaction from photojournalists. Jean François Leroy, head of the Visa Pour l’Image photojournalism festival said he would not include World Press Photo participants at the French festival this year. “The photojournalists we want to represent do not call upon their cousins to fornicate in a car,” he said.

On the other hand the New York-based photographer Yunghi Kim conceded “I don’t fault the photographer, it just seems World Press is having an identity crisis.”

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