World Press Photo Foundation announces new photo contest procedures and online channel

In addition to improving one of the most prestigious international awards in photojournalism and documentary photography, the World Press Photo Foundation will inspire and engage the global audience for visual journalism through a new online channel.

The World Press Photo Foundation is releasing a code of ethics, revised rules and detailed guidance for entrants to the 2016 World Press Photo Contest that will mean the global audience can trust the veracity of its prize-winning pictures and stories.

The publication of these materials is part of a new strategy for the World Press Photo Foundation, emphasizing how its many activities—including education, training, exhibitions, events, and research—work to develop and promote quality visual journalism.

The strategy has two objectives:

1. Ensure the photo contest, masterclass, exhibition, and publications reward and promote photojournalism and documentary photography that embodies the core journalistic values of accuracy, fairness, transparency and accountability.

2. Ensure the foundation provides leadership in visual journalism by establishing an online channel through which it will be a publisher and broadcaster. This will be the forum through which the foundation will investigate and report on the opportunities and challenges facing visual journalism, and promote new ways of visual storytelling, even if they are not eligible for the photo contest.

The strategy has been developed under the leadership of managing director Lars Boering, and comes after a five-month review of both the foundation’s activities and lessons learned from previous photo contests. This review included 17 consultations with photographers, editors and publishers at events in 15 international locations, including Amsterdam, Beijing, Cortona, Hamburg, Kathmandu, London, Mexico City, Nairobi, New York, Paris, Perpignan, and Santiago de Chile.

Lars Boering said:

“We’ve learned a lot from the discussions at our meetings this year, and I’m committed to continuing this process of engagement with the global community of photographers and visual journalists who support us. It has also given me a great opportunity to explain what we are about and where we are going. It has been a privilege to listen to the views of people passionate about the state of the industry and the network has been strengthened.”

The highlight of the foundation’s new strategy will be the launch in 2016 of an online channel reporting on the opportunities and challenges for image makers and visual journalism. To be coordinated by foundation staff, and with an external group of contributing editors, the channel will be a wholly new, stand-alone website. It will launch with its own publication name, and it will both curate and commission analyses, debates and new visual stories.

Boering said the new channel would be the foundation’s most important new initiative:

“After accepting the job of director less than a year ago, I said we wanted to be a think tank that wasn’t afraid to have an opinion or take a stand – on everything from new business models for visual journalism to the necessity of opposing restrictions on free speech – even if that made us more vulnerable. We will always be independent and impartial, but that can only help us be a quality broadcaster and publisher. We want to be a bridge between different audiences, connecting visual journalists with the global audience that needs and wants their work. And we want to help lead the visual journalism community by offering quality information, rigorous analysis, informed debate, and the most creative approaches to reporting and storytelling. We are in the business of permanent education because we all have so much to learn each and every day, and all our activities should inspire, engage and support our community.”

Speaking about the new code of ethics and revised rules for the 2016 Photo Contest, Boering said:

“As one of the foundation’s long established activities, we want the photo contest to reward the skills of the photographer to make the best single-exposure, single-frame pictures – either individually or as a story or long-term project – that are great contributions to visual journalism. All the creative elements of photography can be used, but they have to serve the purpose of reliable journalism. We want the audience to have trust in the accuracy of the pictures that win awards and are shown in our exhibition, so, for the first time, the contest has a code of ethics that sets out what we expect from entrants.”

The code of ethics has been specifically designed for the photo contest, and was produced by closely examining similar codes from journalism associations and media organizations, and consulting extensively with members of the photojournalism community. The code sets out what is expected of entrants to the contest, and is explicitly backed by the entry rules. The code requires those who enter the contest to provide an accurate and fair representation of the scene they witnessed so the audience is not misled.

The way the last two contests led to public debate about manipulation was the impetus behind the new code of ethics and revised rules, said Boering:

“In those contests, the jury took a strong stand against picture manipulation, and in the past two years 33 entries, out of a total of 240 in the second last round, were excluded, and one story was disqualified after award. While the numbers surprised the industry, what we learned through our consultations is that manipulation is an issue for the industry as a whole, and everyone has been grappling with how to handle it. In the contest, entries were excluded because of changes that were materially small but ethically significant. If we want pictures to be documents and evidence, we cannot accept the addition or removal of content, even if it is just ‘tidying up the image’.”

“As a foundation, we were not clear enough in our criteria and guidance to entrants, and our communications on this issue should have been much better. That is why we undertook this detailed review. We have worked hard through our consultations to improve the criteria and guidance for the next contest, and I believe when entrants read and see what we require now, they will understand how and why we are doing this. And I believe strongly that photographers are with us on this issue, especially as our entrants readily provide their original camera files for review, demonstrating they do not intend to mislead either us or the audience. In those very rare cases where someone might repeatedly mislead us, we now have the sanction of excluding them from future contests for five years.”

Because the challenge of confronting manipulation goes beyond the integrity of the image file, the 2016 Photo Contest also sees the introduction of two new features to underwrite its core journalistic values. Firstly, entrants will be required to provide more detailed captions, and the foundation is providing detailed guidance on the information captions must contain. Secondly, there will be a verification process in the five days between the jury’s decision and the public announcement of the winners. In this time, an independent fact-checking team will scrutinize metadata, winners’ captions, and supporting information to ensure it is accurate.

Boering concluded:

“The World Press Photo Foundation will be working hard to develop and promote quality visual journalism and storytelling in all its forms. The World Press Photo Contest, as one of the foundation’s major activities, will be rewarding one of those forms – the best photojournalism and documentary photography that is accurate and fair – and we believe the new code of ethics, revised rules and clear guidance will enable that. We have also expanded the contest prizes to bring each and every winner to the Awards Days in Amsterdam in April. Now our team is looking forward to pushing ahead with building the online channel so we can showcase great stories and new approaches, lead debate, and connect visual journalists with the global audience that wants and needs their work.”

All information about the 2016 Photo Contest can be linked to and accessed via:

How to enter the contest?

The 2016 World Press Photo Contest will be open for participants to enter their work on 2 December 2015. The deadline for submissions is 13 January 2016, 12.00 CET. Entries may only be submitted online via the World Press Photo entry website. A username and password are required to enter and can be requested until 7 January 2016, 12.00 CET. 

Posted November 25 2015

About The World Press Photo Foundation

We are a global platform connecting professionals and audiences through trustworthy visual journalism and storytelling. Founded in 1955 when a group of Dutch photographers organized a contest to share their work with an international audience, the competition has grown into the world’s most prestigious photography award and our mission has expanded. We encourage diverse accounts of the world that present stories with different perspectives. We exhibit those stories to a worldwide audience, educate the profession and the public on their making, and encourage debate on their meaning.

The World Press Photo Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization, based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We receive support from the Dutch Postcode Lottery and are sponsored worldwide by Canon.