Hester Keijser, The Problem with Photography as a Tool for Social Change 04.07. – 17.09.2017 | online


Increasing image manipulation has put photojournalism under general suspicion, and several scandals following the annual World Press Photo Award have raised questions about authenticity, journalistic ethics, and fading trust in the field. The recent 2017 controversy around Hossein Fatemi, followed by the exposure of Souvid Datta’s unethical conduct, has not only stirred wide media attention, but also an active public debate on social media. This debate called for a critical engagement with questions of integrity and responsibility that takes into account structural issues of the photojournalistic industry, such as the "inequality of benefits between the industry and the subjects/participants“ of the photographers. As one of the dedicated voices in these debates, Hester Keijser, author and independent curator based in Den Haag, and founder of Stead Bureau, has been invited to map the recent controversies and dissect the dynamics at play.


Hester Kejiser
Published: 04.07.2017

STARTING DATE: 29 April 2017
INITIATORS: Robert Godden on facebook.com
ADDRESSEES: LensCulture, Magnum Photography Awards, Souvid Datta
REACH: Facebook, Medium, Twitter, online photography magazines, personal blogs, Time, Petapixel, Reddit, Duckrabbit, international newspapers and magazines, NPR radio
END DATE: 15 May 2017
STATUS: Resolved

ARGUMENT: Commodification of an image picturing a trafficked minor engaged in non-consensual sex with a client, used for an open call for a photography award on LensCulture.
OBJECTIVE: Removal of image, discussion of ethical conduct of photographer and the publishing platform.
VIEW: Use of image is in breach of human rights of trafficked minor and of Unicef’s “principle for ethical reporting on children”, and could possibly constitute a criminal offence under British law.

OUTCOME: LensCulture removed contested image from Magnum Photography Award open call webpage, and released a public apology. Datta admitted several cases of manipulation and plagiarism that were discovered after the publicity about the case grew. Several awards and prizes were taken away from him. He no longer calls himself a photojournalist.


LensCulture is an online, database-driven, commercial platform for photography with a large global audience. Together with Magnum Photos they organise the Magnum Photography Awards, a ‘pay-to-play’ contest. On 29 April, Robert Godden left a post on Facebook after receiving their call for entries, raising alarm over an image by Souvid Datta, a UK based photographer, that was used as a header to promote the award. The photograph depicts a trafficked minor engaged in non-consensual sex with a client in an Indian brothel. The girl is fully recognisable, while the client, seen from the back, retains his anonymity. Outraged at the violation of the girl’s rights, committed both by Datta and LensCulture, Godden called upon LensCulture to remove the image immediately, and to establish ethical guidelines for the publication of photographs of children in vulnerable situations, especially victims of human rights abuse.

Benjamin Chesterton, production director at Duckrabbit, a multi-media production and training company, took issue and penned an emotional post on his widely read blog, calling it the commodification of child rape, and asking: “Does the photography world get any more fucked up than this?”

Outcry ensued, from the entire industry and photo community, upon which LensCulture removed the image from their campaign site without any notification, issuing a public apology about having made an error of judgement two days later. By 3 May, Souvid Datta had taken down his website, as it became known he had not only photographed minors being sexually assaulted, but – as was discovered by Indian social worker Shreya Bhat – he had also lifted elements from Mary Ellen Mark’s work, and passed work by others as his own, rewriting their captions to suit his narrative.

At that point, public outrage went viral on social and print media, radio and Petapixel, and the damage to Datta’s reputation was irreversible. Interviewed by Olivier Laurent for Time on 9 May, Datta responded to the accusations and issued his apologies. However, the interview was felt to be lacking in firmness of questions by many who had followed the debate, which helped to perpetuate the heated discussions on social media. Within three weeks, Datta had been stripped of previous honours and awards by various organisations, who quickly removed mention of him from their websites.

Magnum Photos never engaged in the public debate about the controversy, but later updated their website with the following statement: “In light of recent evidence in relation to the practice of photographer Souvid Datta, we removed him from nominations for our Graduate Photographer Award 2017 on Friday, May 5th.” As of this date it is unclear whether LensCulture will establish or implement the ethical code of conduct that Godden called for.

As in the Fatemi/World Press Photo case, the discussions tended to pivot more on issues relating to the economics that drives priorities in the photography industry, rather than on the inequality of benefits between the industry and the subjects/participants. This despite the repeated emphasis that was placed on this oversight by several participants in the debates.

The lack of consensus over what an ethical code of conduct should comprise and cover, is now felt more acutely in the aftermath of both controversies. The Story of Mino, the case study accompanying this reader, discusses how this omission can be repaired.

STARTING DATE: 1 March 2017
INITIATOR: Ramin Talaie on medium.com
ADDRESSEES: World Press Photo (WPP), Hossein Fatemi
REACH: Facebook, Medium, Twitter, online photography magazines, personal blogs
END DATE: 15 March 2017
STATUS: Open / unresolved

ARGUMENT: Unethical conduct due to misleading captions and manipulated (staged) images submitted by Hossein Fatemi, winning him a second place for his long-term project An Iranian Journey.
OBJECTIVE: Open discussion about the facts surrounding Fatemi’s work and the findings of WPP after an independent investigation.
VIEW: Fatemi’s conduct, now endorsed by the WPP award, jeopardises the integrity of and trust in (Iranian) photojournalism

OUTCOME: WPP was perceived as falling short of engaging in a truly open discussion, and refused to disclose the investigative report, even in a redacted version that would have protected witnesses. While the award was not rescinded, the contested captions were changed at a later date, without giving an official reason for that decision upon request.


On 13 February, the British Journal of Photography published an interview with Lars Boering, in which he mentioned the importance of the code of ethics for entrants to the awards that was adopted after he became managing director of World Press Photo (WPP). “It’s not about World Press Photo, it’s industry-wide and we need to debate it,” he said to the BJP. “It is something we feel very strongly about – there can be no fake news.”

Two weeks later, Ramin Talaie, a US-based photographer and filmmaker who teaches photojournalism at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, decided to go public with a report he had sent to WPP earlier, in which he argued that Hossein Fatemi’s work constituted a serious breach of WPP’s ethical code of conduct.

Answering to the alarm raised, WPP commissioned former vice president of The Associated Press, Santiago Lyon, to conduct an independent investigation, which eventually led to the conclusion that “given the evidence presented there was not sufficient evidence to declare a clear breach of our contest entry rules.”

This dismissal left Talaie, who had wished to communicate the concerns that many Iranians had expressed to him regarding Fatemi’s mode of operation, utterly stunned. He had been positive about the case he argued and the evidence the witnesses had provided. In his commitment to help safeguard the integrity of photojournalistic standards in Iran, he opened up the discussion about the facts surrounding Fatemi’s work and the findings of WPP to the public. After sharing his article on Facebook, a heated debate ensued among photographers and photo industry stakeholders.

The majority of these conversations are documented in the reader, that is downloadable here, compiled as a way of keeping record and for educational purposes. Here it is worth noting that the positions taken up in the debates can be sorted in roughly two main categories, pertaining respectively to:

1) the economics that drives priorities in the photography industry
2) the inequality of power relations and benefits between the industry and the subjects/participants.

As Robert Godden, a professional human rights advocate and one of the most active participants in the debate, concluded in a private message: “I tend to see the focus on image manipulation (both digital and staging) to be an economic concern related to protection of the industry and about maintaining a ‘level playing field’. Basically, maintain public trust of the industry’s outputs, and ensure that as much as possible no one spoils this or gains unfair advantage by ‘cheating.’ The rights holders (those who figure in the work) come a poor second, if they are considered at all. There is a culture of arrogance in relation to the subjects/participants; but worse, there is lip service to ‘giving them voice’ (and other patronising phrases) which are not borne out in the equation of who benefits.”

The Story of Mino, a case study of one of the contested images, dissects the dynamics played out in the WPP/Fatemi debates.


“She remembers the shoot as a fun day among artistic friends while taking pictures for personal use. […] She told to me that she has had a difficult life at times, but she has never been a prostitute. Mino explained that at the time of these photos she was separated from her only daughter for almost four years. She doesn’t understand why Fatemi would write this caption about her, ‘... a prostitute working to pay for the cost of raising her two children.’ She didn't even know where her daughter was at the time of the shoot. Mino painfully disclosed that her first husband had taken the child away from her for several years.

Mino only learned about the publication of the photos when I asked Ali to find her for my reporting. During my conversation with her I asked her twice if she was a prostitute or had ever had sex for money. She vehemently denied that charge. She explained that she had sex with friends and lovers outside of marriage, in a similar fashion that people have relationships in the West. She continued to say that if anyone, including Fatemi or Ali, think of her as a prostitute, then it is their narrow minded view of a woman's role in the Iranian society.”

This is the story of Mino [not her real name] as told to Ramin Talaie. Mino is a young woman who lives in Iran, where she leads an independent life that would be considered unconventional in different societies. Moreover, she seems fully in charge of her sexuality, and chooses to define her identity on her own terms. We know her story, because Ramin Talaie made the effort of tracking her down to speak with her. He invited her to give her account of the circumstances in which Hossein Fatemi took the photograph that ended up being submitted to the WPP awards with the title: “A naked woman with a tattoo at the base of her spine, lies on a bed. The woman is a prostitute working to pay for the cost of raising her two children”, which was later redacted to “A sex worker lies on her bed”. Except that it isn’t her own bed, in her own home, as Talaie informed me, but the bed of Ali [not his real name], in his apartment, where the shoot took place.

This chain of events, which started as a fun day among friends, and ended with Mino being introduced as a prostitute to millions of viewers thanks to the heightened exposure that a WPP award brings, prompted Mari Bastashevski, an investigative researcher and photographer, to reflect on Facebook: “A woman who clearly had a difficult life and lost custody of her child, has survived to insist on her right to be seen as she wants to be seen in a society (by society I don't just mean Iran) that wishes to erase her. Let's just pause and stay with this a minute. It's worth it.” The erasure that Bastashevski speaks of, is an act of violence that took place not just once, but repeatedly, in a process which resulted in a photographer being honoured for his achievement.

Does this constitute unethical behaviour? It depends, and not only on subjective grounds or as a mere question of which perspective you prefer to take. We’ll come back to this later. First let’s stay with the repeated acts of violence committed by several stakeholders in the photography industry.

From Talaie we know that Mino only learned afterwards that the image of her lying naked on Ali’s bed was brought into circulation. In other words, she had no say in its dissemination to the general public, nor did Fatemi ask her if she consented to his description of the scene. It would be impossible for Mino to start a legal case on the grounds of defamation, because in court she would be forced to detail aspects of her life for which she risks conviction in Iran. In other words, Fatemi can act with impunity, because he knows that she is powerless; the price she would pay for calling him to account is simply too high.

During his investigations into the allegations brought forward by Talaie, Santiago Lyon never spoke to Mino, even though Ali had provided him with her name and phone number. Given the severity of the case, and in absence of the report Lyon submitted to WPP, the question why he failed to contact her remains urgent. As it stands, however, this constitutes the second erasure of Mino, for not being heard in the officially commissioned report, which formed the basis of the dismissal of Talaie’s objections.

Although being made aware of Mino’s account through Talaie’s second article on Medium, WPP sided with the photographer’s version, saying that “it is just not possible to easily judge a case that has so much of a ‘he said versus she said’ quality about it.” Even in the redacted version of the captions, they insist on defining her identity for her, by introducing her to their audience as a sex worker. This is the third erasure, and ought not to be taken lightly. For it cannot be ruled out that despite her face not being shown in the image, someone may recognise her, for instance by the distinct tattoo on her lower back. That fun day with artistic friends, which seemed so harmless, might come back to haunt her, would she be exposed and shamed, or charged with being a sex worker.

The erasure of Mino goes both ways in the sense that it affects the viewers as well. On the website of Panos, Fatemi’s agency, Mino is still the “prostitute working to pay for the cost of raising her two children”. If it would be up to WPP, we would only see “a sex worker lying on her bed”. Redacted to the bare minimum, the description holds no information value, other than pointing out the existence of sex workers in Iran, which can hardly be called ‘news’. It becomes a thinly veiled excuse for subjecting yet another woman, naked and passive, to countless instances of the male gaze in action. What is erased for us as the viewers, is the chance of being presented with a defiantly self-conscious portrait of a young woman, a mother, navigating her at times troubled life within the complexities of contemporary Iranian society.

If I’ve taken great pains to try to reconstruct the chain of events surrounding a single image in such detail, it is for a reason. As can be gleaned from the Fatemi reader (downloadable here), the controversy about his work and the award is so complex, happening on multiple topic threads simultaneously, that the file has grown to over 150 pages. In response to the many comments questioning the decision of WPP to not reconsider the award, the organisation and its supporters have pointed out that it is not the photographer, but his work which is to adhere to the Code of Ethics that Boering instated last year. Remarkably, this new Code of Ethics has no provisions for cases involving the rights of the ‘subjects’ of the photographers, but mainly seems to be formulated for what Godden described to me as “economic concerns related to protection of the industry and the maintaining of a 'level playing field’.”

In my opinion, there is no ground to gain by arguing with WPP whether or not the rules laid out in their Code of Ethics were sufficiently honoured. Ethical codes are usually self-regulatory recommendations at best, intended to provide a practical framework for industry professionals faced with ethical and legal dilemmas, to help them make informed decisions. Ethical codes are not laws that can be enforced, no matter how frustrating it may be for those who feel that violations have occurred that reflect badly on the entire industry and undermine public trust in the output of photographers. Of course substantial pressure can and has been applied by the community, and there is plenty of space for disagreement over the exact interpretation of what it means that entrants to the awards “must not intentionally contribute to, or alter, the scene they picture by re-enacting or staging events”, or that they “must ensure captions are accurate.” However, it must not be forgotten that WPP has the final authority to establish whether lines were crossed, and if so, how substantially that impacts their decision to award or rescind a prize. In the case of Fatemi’s submission, they have clearly come to conclude, that while there was reason to redact the captions, the issues found weren’t grave enough to call for more drastic measures.

If real advances are to be made in dealing with such conflicting cases – and that seems to be a sentiment shared by many of the participants in the discussions on social media – I suggest to take benefit from existing expertise, as boiled down in the ethical guidelines developed by social and visual anthropologists. Even though both disciplines have been good neighbours in the past, shifts in the economy of photojournalism have moved them much closer together to point where practices and concerns have begun to overlap.

Not too long ago, photojournalism was anchored in and sustained by the commercial, corporate environment of print media when it was still a profitable business that floated on advertising revenues. Today, photojournalism finds itself in transition, not only from analog to digital, or from print to online, but also in terms of their allegiances and income models. Forced to become self-employed, young photographers are encouraged to make a name for themselves as independent freelancers, who pay for their research, travels, equipment and time out of other sources of income, whether these are side jobs, partner incomes, private funds, or corporate and state sponsorship (i.e. grants, subsidies and awards). Within a market defined by perennial lack of funds, the emergence of unscrupulous ‘award hunters’ should be no surprise.

As a result of this market shift, less output is generated in traditional spot news, an area where few sustainable jobs survive due to the ubiquity of (surveillance) cameras and the emergence of citizen journalism. More time and energy now goes towards developing long form, research-based or socially engaged documentary projects. This type of work is more easily marketable when prepackaged as complete narratives on contemporary issues that fit into the categories of the known knowns of social injustice: homelessness, sex industry, migration, gender, global warming, pollution, drug trade, urbanisation, gang violence, the position of women, low wage labour in the Global South etc.

The realisation, however, that this type of photographic practice veers deeply into the territory traditionally home to visual anthropologists, social workers, human rights specialists or environmental activists, has been slow to arrive. Among this breed of documentary photographers, there are those who roam the grounds as if they are the first to discover them, ostentatiously blind to the presence of other practitioners, nor taking advantage of their experience. According to several of the sources I have spoken with on occasion, the new arrivals are seen to act like cowboys, touting their beliefs in ‘photography as a tool for social change’ as the penultimate solution, despite firmly established academic evidence to the contrary. It is not unthinkable that before long disputes will arise between photographers and the older residents, for example with regards to the rules of conduct that apply when dealing with trafficked children being forced to work as slaves in the sex industry.

Let’s consider how photojournalism may benefit from the ethical guidelines in anthropology, by looking at the story of Mino. Would another decision be reached by following these borrowed guidelines, and on what grounds? More importantly, would Mino be seen as she wants to be seen, instead of being erased to represent the archetypical “fallen woman"? My reference for this case study is a document compiled by the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and the Commonwealth, as it was by far the most elaborate and sound set of guidelines available. The preamble states:

“Social anthropologists carry out their professional research in many places around the world; some where they are 'at home' and others where they are in some way 'foreign'. Anthropological scholarship occurs within a variety of economic, cultural, legal and political settings. As professionals and as citizens, they need to consider the effects of their involvement with, and consequences of their work for; the individuals and groups among whom they do their fieldwork (their research participants or 'subjects'); their colleagues and the discipline, and collaborating researchers; sponsors, funders, employers and gatekeepers; their own and host governments; and other interest groups and the wider society in the countries in which they work.

Anthropologists, like other social researchers, are faced increasingly with competing duties, obligations and conflicts of interest, with the need to make implicit or explicit choices between values and between the interests of different individuals and groups. Ethical and legal dilemmas occur at all stages of research – in the selection of topic, area or population, choice of sponsor and source of funding, in negotiating access, making 'research bargains' and during the research itself conducting fieldwork, in the interpretation and analysis of results and in the publication of findings and the disposal of data. Anthropologists have a responsibility to anticipate problems and insofar as is possible to resolve them without harming the research participants or the scholarly community. They should do their utmost to ensure that they leave a research field in a state which permits future access by other researchers. As members of a discipline committed to the pursuit of knowledge and the public disclosure of findings, they should strive to maintain integrity in the conduct of anthropological research.”

The document continues by detailing the guidelines for each of the relations and responsibilities identified: 1) towards research participants, 2) towards sponsors, funders and employers, 3) towards colleagues and the discipline, 4) towards own and host governments and 5) to the wider society. Although the awareness of the different relations a researcher needs to maintain with varying levels of responsibility is remarkable, I will only cover the points directly relevant to the Fatemi case.

Mino’s description of her experience as “a fun day among artistic friends” implies a level of equality between her, Ali and Fatemi; all three of them collaborated on staging and directing the shoots. However, the relational dynamics changed the moment Fatemi decided to use his images for a body of professional work that would become An Iranian Journey. At that point, Mino was no longer merely a friend, but had become a subject, or ‘participant’ of his project, and as such, Fatemi had the responsibility to treat her in a professional manner. According to the Ethical Guidelines cited, this means:

“Protecting research participants and honouring trust: Anthropologists should endeavour to protect the physical, social and psychological well-being of those whom they study and to respect their rights, interests, sensitivities and privacy:

(a) Most anthropologists would maintain that their paramount obligation is to their research participants and that when there is conflict, the interests and rights of those studied should come first.

(b) Under some research conditions, particularly those involving contract research, it may not be possible to fully guarantee research participants' interests. In such cases anthropologists would be well-advised to consider in advance whether they should pursue that particular piece of research."

Has Fatemi honoured Mino’s trust when he decided to publish his image without asking for her consent? Has he sufficiently considered in advance what it would mean for Mino’s rights, interests, privacy to be thus exposed, and did he communicate that to her? Has he anticipated the harm she might come to through his actions? As the guidelines expound:

“Anthropologists should be sensitive to the possible consequences of their work and should endeavour to guard against predictably harmful effects. Consent from subjects does not absolve anthropologists from their obligation to protect research participants as far as possible against the potentially harmful effects of research.”

In other words, even if she had given her consent, that still wouldn’t relieve Fatemi of his responsibility. Did he know what constitutes informed consent? Again, at this point the guidelines are detailed and offer a good handle:

“Following the precedent set by the Nuremberg Trials and the constitutional laws of many countries, inquiries involving human subjects should be based on the freely given informed consent of subjects. The principle of informed consent expresses the belief in the need for truthful and respectful exchanges between social researchers and the people whom they study:

(a) Negotiating consent entails communicating information likely to be material to a person's willingness to participate, such as: - the purpose(s) of the study, and the anticipated consequences of the research; the identity of funders and sponsors; the anticipated uses of the data; possible benefits of the study and possible harm or discomfort that might affect participants; issues relating to data storage and security; and the degree of anonymity and confidentiality which may be afforded to informants and subjects.

(b) Conditions which constitute an absence of consent: consent made after the research is completed is not meaningful consent at all. Further, the persons studied must have the legal capacity to give consent. Where subjects are legally compelled (e.g., by their employer or government) to participate in a piece of research, consent cannot be said to have been meaningfully given by subjects, and anthropologists are advised not to pursue that piece of work.

(c) Consent in research is a process, not a one-off event, and may require renegotiation over time; it is an issue to which the anthropologist should return periodically.”

On the basis of these guidelines, it is clear that Fatemi failed in his responsibilities towards Mino as his participant, and that according to the tenets held dear by anthropologists, he acted unethically. In fact, the photograph of Mino should never have been part of his series, and certainly not with the caption he provided with his submission. It also shows, that it is not a matter of ‘he said versus she said’, as Boering contended, because regardless who said what, the power dynamics dictate that Fatemi is the one ultimately responsible for protecting his participants’ rights, which ought to come first before any other consideration and interests. Furthermore, having not been given a chance to give her views to Lyon for his investigation, the conclusion should never have been to side with the photographer’s version of the story, because it means that the participant’s rights and interests were not given due prevalence [1]. An anthropologist would in this instance most likely be strongly advised “not to pursue that piece of work”.

Among the grievances expressed by the commenters on social media is the irresponsibility towards the discipline with which Fatemi was felt to have acted. This issue is also extensively covered in the document text, where it speaks of the relations with, and responsibilities towards colleagues and the discipline:

“Anthropologists derive their status and certain privileges of access to research participants and to data not only by virtue of their personal standing but also by virtue of their professional citizenship. In acknowledging membership of a wider anthropological community anthropologists owe various obligations to that community and can expect consideration from it.

(1) Individual responsibility: Anthropologists bear responsibility or the good reputation of the discipline and its practitioners. In considering their methods, procedures, content and reporting of their enquiries, behaviour in the field and relations with research participants and field assistants they should therefore try to ensure that their activities will not jeopardise future research.”

On Facebook, Sima Diab Kassem, a Syrian-American photographer based in Cairo, Egypt, expressed her very real concerns over the consequences and the damages that result from Fatemi’s conduct, as well as from the affirmation his work received through the award:

“You know, I live in a paranoid country, a country where blaming journalists for creating lies is a fine art that makes Trump look like an amateur. A country where I have to say to my subjects I’m not bought and sold by politicians, that I don’t work for an agenda, and that I'm truly there making pictures of their realities. I've been burnt by other photographers who have been in the same locations I have who have been less than ethical, that I’ve had to spend my time telling people they don’t need to act out scenarios for the camera, that if I don't get the picture as it happens then I don’t get the picture. It’s that simple. What the hell have we done where this is even remotely acceptable? We are told to be held to a higher moral authority, our own ethical standards, those golden standards within the profession and it is that standard – that essence of truth that brought me in to this. That truth is becoming harder and harder to defend.”

To conclude, what seems common sense and wisdom for anthropologists seems to bear no weight for the kind of photojournalism that is promoted by WPP. Rewarding practitioners who make light of their responsibilities towards their participants as towards their colleagues will inevitably reflect back on the standing of WPP. When looking at it with the borrowed glasses of the ethical anthropologist, it is honestly incomprehensible why an organisation would expose itself to such risk, especially when it could so easily be avoided. One wonders what are the benefits in that, both short term and long term?

As the result of this exercise in comparative reading of ethical codes across related disciplines, the impression remains that however commendable the introduction of a code of ethics, it currently serves merely in helping safeguard a level playing field for the industry participants. What it fails to take into account are the further and very real responsibilities that come with the changing role of the contemporary documentary photographer. Moreover, one may question if the objective of maintaining public trust in the industry’s output is met under the current regime. Of what else are the 150 pages of reading materials generated by the Fatemi controversy proof?

The announcement that WPP will establish an International Circle of Advisors, is more than welcome. It is to be hoped that they will be given the tools needed to ensure not only the interests of the industry, but that will also help evaluate the choices made by contest entrants regarding their relations with the ‘subjects’ as the rights holders, and the manner in which they have maintained or jeopardised the integrity of the discipline. That would definitely earn WPP a great deal of respect from the wider community, and show a dedication to furthering responsible and inclusive photojournalism. Is it much to ask? I think not, considering that anthropologists and other social scientists have committed themselves to such recommendations and guidelines for much longer. Surely, the majority of photojournalists wishes to uphold the highest possible standards, especially now, with the high winds that are blowing in the face of truth and integrity.


[1] On 22 May 2017, World Press Photo published a final response to Talaie’s second report, titled Pursuing justice and seeking the truth: a World Press Photo Contest update. Discussing the case of ‘Mino’, they mentioned facing different accounts about what happened during the shoot. They spoke with both Fatemi and ‘Ali’, but failed to contact Mino, saying “any interview would have been of indeterminate value”. Both men mentioned sexual activity had taken place, of which they had shown unpublished photographs as proof, with only one of them – presumably the photographer – claiming that money had been paid.

Despite two out of three witnesses denying it was a case of prostitution, WPP decided to give credibility to the one who said it was. Apart from being clearly biased against both other witnesses, WPP does not seem to realise what informed consent means, nor that it is completely beside the point if Mino was paid for sex or if she engaged in consensual sex, or if she is lying about it taking place. Above and beyond discrediting two witnesses and failing to protect the subject, WPP doesn’t seem to realise that by admitting there is not one ‘truth’ to be told, the photograph as a document loses all its validity as an example of good photojournalism.