In a rare reversal, the prestigious World Press Photo contest has revoked a first-place prize recently awarded to a photographer after the organization learned that the submission, depicting the depressed city of Charleroi, Belgium, contained false information.
Photographer Giovanni Troilo's submission -- a photo essay titled "La Ville Noire -- The Dark Heart of Europe" -- contained a photograph of a painter creating a work with live models. Contest officials said Wednesday that the photo was shot in Molenbeek, Brussels, and not in Charleroi, where the photographer claimed it was shot.
"La Ville Noire" was awarded the first-place prize in the contest's contemporary issues category. The series purports to depict the town of Charleroi as a microcosm for the industrial decay, rampant unemployment and overall social unease of present-day Europe.
According to some reports, the controversy over Troilo's portfolio started several days ago when questions were raised about whether another of the images, showing two individuals engaged in sexual activity in a car, was staged.
But the official reason for the disqualification given in Wednesday's announcement was the misinformation accompanying the image of the painter.
“The World Press Photo Contest must be based on trust in the photographers who enter their work and in their professional ethics," said Lars Boering, managing director of the organization, in a news release.
"We have checks and controls in place, of course, but the contest simply does not work without trust. 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."
This year's contest jury was headed by Michele McNally, director of photography and an assistant managing editor at the New York Times.
Contest leaders said the first-place prize in the contemporary issues category would now go to photographer Giulio Di Sturco for his series "Chollywood," depicting the filming of a TV series at Hengdian World Studios in China. His submission was originally the second-place winner.