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Dumping Quilty: Mean-spirited, unfair and lacking transparency

The results are in for two prestigious global photo contests, and as usual World Press Photo has controversy tailing close behind it.

Andrew Quilty has been accused of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by anonymous ‘reliable sources’. It led to World Press Photo cancelling his invitation to the Awards Ceremony; and NY Times, National Geographic, and Time have flagged no future work for the photojournalist.

First, the Andrew Quilty thing. It comes across as mean-spirited, unfair and lacking any transparency for media organisations to announce their draconian punishments against Quilty without providing the most basic details of the accusations, or flagging any further investigation into the claims on which those punishments are based.

Reserving judgement
Perhaps when the details emerge we will be collectively horrified by the ugly details. It may be that merely writing this criticism of the process of expelling Quilty from the photographic community – because that’s what’s happening here – will be seen as defending his apparently shocking behaviour.

But this is not a matter of defending Andrew Quilty – we don’t know what we would be defending him against. It’s more a defense of natural justice.

He may be proven to be the devil incarnate, but photojournalism has been better for Quilty’s contribution. His relatively short career has brought important stories from a war-torn country that’s fallen from the media radar. His documentation of the Kabul Ambulance Bomb in late January last year goes unmatched. Quilty’s 2015 Gold Walkley winning feature article, The Man on the Operating Table, brought a human element to the US airstrike on the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital. He’s a multi-award winning photographer for a reason.

Quilty recently told ABC Radio that only love could drag him away from Kabul. He clearly doesn’t want to stop telling Afghanistan’s story.

But it feels like things are about to get real bad for Andrew Quilty. In a perverse sort of way, one hopes his crime (and surely it can be nothing short of a crime, whatever it is) is worthy of the swift and merciless punishment doled out. Otherwise those worthy folk at the WPP and the NY Times have themselves lost their moral compass.

– Will Shipton

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