Rather than write in detail about this again, let me just direct you to a piece on PDN Pulse by David Walker, World Press Hits Pellegrin with Wet Noodle (And Other Contest Scandals) which gives details of the complete failure to take any action over the recent problems with work by Pellegrin and others I mentioned in the recent post Magnum Failure.
As the title of his post suggests, WPP are basically trying to say it doesn’t really matter that a photographer wilfully misrepresents the subject. The PDN piece also links to another good post by photographer Kenneth Jarecke on his Mostly True blog, which discusses the case and also Pellegrin’s reaction to it.
There is a lot of discussion on Mostly True, and again much of it worth reading, but in the end I think the issues are simple. What Pellegrin did simply was not acceptable for a documentary project; he should not have misrepresented it as documentary work.
I hope that both WPP and POYi will reconsider. Magnum will lose what respect it has among photographers – and the informed public – unless it puts pressure on both Pellegrin and the organisations to get the project withdrawn from the contests. At the moment they are all just trying to defend their backs rather than to correct the error.
And it was an error, and Pellegrin needs to admit it rather than blustering against everyone involved in bringing out the true story. It certainly isn’t enough to say “Looking at the presentation on the World Press Photo and POYi sites, I do regret the formulation, ‘where these pictures were taken’ in the background text in relation to Shane’s picture.” Of course there is nothing wrong with taking portraits in a documentary context, but this was a picture that was out of context in the actual story he was attempting to cover. Pellegrin attempts to plead innocence but his response pleads ignorance, which isn’t a defence. If he didn’t know it was because he didn’t ask the right questions, and having a good picture certainly doesn’t absolve you from this essential part of the job.
And I’ve just come across another post worth reading – Is it Lying? by Samuel Corum.