Fake Photo Essay Wins Paris Match Prize

Categories: Feature

By Daryl Lang PDNPulse.com

Here's some fresh ammo for anyone who thinks photo contests too often celebrate clichés.

Paris Match magazine recently awarded its annual grand prize for photo reportage to a pair of art students who admitted they staged the whole project.

Their photo essay is series of blurry, grainy, black-and-white images. They show French students in various states of despair: One is sleeping in a car, another rests his head on a desk, two pick up trash.

When their cliché-ridden project actually won, the student photographers announced the hoax to the judges. They said they were trying to draw attention to student poverty and make a statement about the nature of visual information.

"Before they received their trophy and €5,000 (£4,260) cheque at a ceremony on Wednesday, the prize-winners, Guillaume Chauvin and Rémi Hubert, read out a statement admitting to the hoax, stating that they had wanted to make a 'powerful artistic gesture' attacking the 'voyeurism' and gullibility of parts of the press. The prize jury looked crestfallen but managed to applaud all the same."

Needless to say this stunt is an embarrassment for Paris Match and its contest judges. The British Journal of Photography notes that Paris Match withdrew the prize and published a note to readers saying the images had been faked.

What's interesting about this project is the images by themselves communicate no facts, only feelings. When the photos are labeled as genuine and tied to a social concern—in this case, student poverty—they become important and affecting. We wonder if the students could have made this point without resorting to lying.