World Press Photo (WPP) withdrew Andrew Quilty’s invitation from its award ceremony after receiving allegations of unspecified ‘inappropriate behaviour’.
While WPP says the allegations came from ‘reliable sources’, the award-winning freelance Australian photojournalist isn’t aware of committing such offences.
‘No allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been made known to me,’ said Quilty’s statement via his lawyer. ‘As a supporter of my female colleagues and the #MeToo movement, I would frankly and openly address any concerns about my conduct, if raised.’
This is the first time in its history WPP has cancelled an invitation for an award-winning photographer, with Quilty taking out third place in the Spot News category of the 2019 contest for his series showing the aftermath of an ambulance packed with explosives that killed 103 people and injured 235 in Kabul, Afghanistan, on January 27 last year.
‘The World Press Photo Foundation believes visual journalism needs its community to be united against discrimination and harassment,’ Lars Boering, managing director of the World Press Photo Foundation, told Columbia Journalism Review. ‘Our protocol is that when we learn from reliable sources that someone associated with us has allegedly engaged in inappropriate behaviour we take action. Because of our protocol, we called him on 2 April to say he was not welcome at our Awards Show and Festival.’
Boering comes across as slightly miffed the WPP doesn’t have the power to revoke Quilty’s award, but a review of the rules is now underway.
‘On the basis of the contest entry rules we do not currently have the grounds to do so,’ he said. ‘He received an award after the jury judged all entries anonymously, and the jury was not aware of his identity or his alleged misconduct when making the award. We will be reviewing our rules for the 2020 contest.’
Quilty, represented by Agence VU, has been based in Kabul, Afghanistan since 2013 and is dedicated to telling intimate stories of the ordinary and extraordinary people in the war torn country. He won the 2016 Gold Walkley, Australia’s top journalism award, for his image The Man on the Operating Table.
‘Telling the greater story of Afghanistan is part of the reason why I’m compelled to stay. It’s a developing story, and I’m one of the few photographers who’ve stayed here to illustrate the story. I enjoy being one of the few here,’ Quilty told Capture magazine in 2018. ‘Professionally, though, it’s a place where I’m able to work and sustain myself, which is a practical matter I can’t ignore. But every day, I’m always ready to go out on my motorcycle and take pictures of whatever I come across, even if I’m not getting paid.’
Quilty may have to get used to ‘not getting paid’. Prestigious clients have begun cutting all ties with the photographer.
The New York Times, National Geographic, and Time have no plans to work with the Australian in the future.
‘Since learning of the allegations, Time has not worked with Andrew Quilty and has no future commitments to work with him at this time,’ a spokesperson for the magazine told CJR.
It seems that Quilty’s ‘inappropriate behaviour’, which none of the organisations who have dumped the previously highly-respected photographer have had the courage to articulate, has potentially career-ending consequences.
It’s surprising that journalistic institutions committed to integrity and transparency have gone public with their respective punishments, without providing the slightest hint as to what he has done.
Interesting times. More to come.