Speech by HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands at the 2015 Awards Ceremony

© Bas de Meijer / Hollandse Hoogte

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

These annual World Press Photo awards are a great opportunity to celebrate, remember and reflect. Celebrate the power of images, richness of the medium, heroic achievements, freedom of the press, and the photojournalist profession and its professionals in general. Remember lost colleagues, who gave their lives following their convictions to bring us the news. And reflect on challenges to the profession, the importance of story telling, the ethics in what to show and how, including issues like digital manipulation.

Last week, I happened to be in Washington during the cherry blossom festival. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but I cannot remember being in a place where so many selfies and photos were being taken. In two days, tens of thousands of people from all over the world were generating terabytes of data. As I wandered around, I was thinking: if I could take one photo, what would it be? What’s the story I would want to tell? Actually, I could not visualize that one defining image, that one story.

In the data deluge of today we need smart, sensitive and capable storytellers to provide perspective, context and nuance. The trained eye of professional photojournalists cannot be replaced by the mass of images of those taking snap shots. Like mine in Washington.

There is not one story of a situation. Good journalism strives to uncover the truth, independent from which angle the story is told. But what is ‘the truth’? The trained eye is subjective. And the mere presence of a photographer impacts the context in which the story is captured—by bringing in his own cultural, gender and political baggage.

So subjectivity is not the issue. It’s about the responsibility the storyteller takes for the story she or he wants to tell. About the intention, and deep felt desire to tell a truthful story. This means that alteration of an image for aesthetic reasons or for getting the message across more forcefully is off limits. It is wrong, as it is the equivalent to lying. World Press Photo has taken a firm stance on this, as it believes that accepting such practices would undermine trust in photojournalism. Digital technology creates possibilities, and temptations. Manipulation and alteration have become so easy, that we have to question what we see, more than ever before. It also forces a fundamental rethink of what the profession is all about. What is ethical, what determines quality, who is telling the story, what are the boundaries?

This debate should go beyond the in-crowd of journalism. It is about how we shape and perceive our reality. How we consume news. And how we form our opinions. It goes to the heart of our democracy. This makes everyone responsible. Keeping the highest ethical and quality standards is neither being nostalgic in the face of digital disruption, nor ignoring the blurring boundaries of the medium. It is to preserve the core of what photojournalism is about. It is what sets it apart from the selfies and daily imagery and information deluge. It is to guard the most valuable but delicate asset of all: trust in the integrity of the profession.

In such a dynamic profession, the boundaries will be continuously challenged and redefined. It is World Press Photo’s duty to actively participate in defining the standards of professionalism. But having said that, this is not only a moment for reflection.

Today is a chance to celebrate photojournalism together with you, the best of the best. And as much as I would like to give a prize to all of you for your amazing work, there can only be one very ‘best of the best’. And this year it is Mads Nissen's intimate picture. It is sad that something so innately human like the love between two people would be controversial. Until people can express their love without being threatened and discriminated, pictures like this are news and worthy of World Press Photo.

I would therefore like to congratulate Mads Nissen whole heartedly, and invite you to the stage.

Posted April 25 2015

About World Press Photo

The World Press Photo Foundation is a major force in developing and promoting visual journalism and visual storytelling. Through one of the most prestigious awards in photojournalism and digital storytelling, an exhibition seen by more than four million people worldwide each year, and extensive research and training programs, we strive to inspire, educate, and support both visual journalists and their global audience with fresh insights and new perspectives.

Founded in 1955, the World Press Photo Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The foundation receives support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and is sponsored worldwide by Canon. There are also a range of collaborations with the World Press Photo Associates, the Friends of World Press Photo, and other partners.