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World Press winner courts controversy

17 February 2014

01_John Stanmeyer

John Stanmeyer, VII Photo

Update: See the end of this article for a video in which jury chair Gary Knight explains why Stanmeyer’s image was chosen this year’s World Press Photo winner.

This year’s winner of the world’s largest press photography competition has been revealed and, once again, the decision has been met with a storm of debate, this time around the area of favouritism.

American photographer John Stanmeyer has picked up the top spot at the 2014 Wold Press Photo competition with a stunning image of silhouetted African migrants on the shores of Djibouti, raising their mobile phones to the night sky in an attempt to pick up the less expensive signal across the water in Somalia.

The image itself is not the cause of the controversy, it has been met with much approval – instead it is the photographer’s shared history with this year’s jury chair, Gary Knight, that has given rise to worries over bias in the selection process.

Both Stanmeyer and Knight are founding members and shareholders in the prestigious photo agency VII Photo; a conflict of interest that Knight himself seems to have been keenly aware of, as he told the New York Times.

“Mr Knight said that although he had asked to be removed from the final judging because of his friendship and professional relationship with Mr Stanmeyer, the World Press rules did not allow for it,” the paper reads.

The organisation has not yet responded to situation since making the winners announcement early on Saturday morning, our time.

The previous year’s contest was dogged by a different breed of controversy when it was alleged the winning photo had been too heavily manipulated to be considered a true example of photojournalism.

Following that fracas the competition tightened its rules around post-processing, which has led to a whopping eight per-cent of this year’s finalists being disqualified under the more stringent regime.

Below is an interview with Knight, chair of this year’s World Press Photo competition, explaining why the jury chose Stanmeyer’s image for the top spot.

D-Photo will bring you image galleries of this the category winners and finalists of the 2014 World Press Photo competition in the coming days.