TPOTY judges look to tighten rules after bias claim

Travel Photographer of the Year organisers may ban photographers who have given talks at TPOTY events from entering the competition the same year after an entrant accused judges of bias.

Photography enthusiast Jill Beeton has accused TPOTY organisers of favouritism after professional photographer Craig Easton, who was a speaker at Travel Photography Live!, was chosen as overall winner of the nine-year-old contest.

NEWS UPDATE 18 December: TPOTY moves to clarify stance  

Easton was among a list of speakers at the event, which was held at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London in October.

Beeton claims that the situation represents a ‘conflict of interest' for TPOTY.

She is angry at TPOTY organisers, and not the winner himself. 

Beeton points out that certain guest speakers also formed part of the 2012 TPOTY judging panel.

‘It really does throw the integrity of the competition into question when presenters who are lined up among judges as speakers at TPOTY's Travel Photography Live! event go on to be among the winners,' claimed Beeton.

However, organisers insist that both the TPOTY judging and entry processes are ‘100% fair and square'.

Karen Coe, a co-founder of TPOTY, told Amateur Photographer that being a speaker at 'TPOTY Live' does ‘not give them any advantage whatsoever'.

She dismissed Beeton's accusation as ‘irrelevant, as nobody involved with judging the awards saw the images at the [TPOTY Live] event'.

‘The TPOTY judging is completely and utterly fair and above board...

‘There is simply no foundation to any of her [Beeton's] accusations, and the integrity of our judges and judging process is absolutely not in doubt.'

It is unclear whether Easton's images were among those displayed at the RGS event.

At the time of writing, the photographer could not be reached for comment.

‘The images were not seen by anybody - me, [co-founder] Chris [Coe] or the judges,' added Coe.

‘The awards are judged by a huge panel... in the UK and overseas, and they are judged anonymously, with the judges not knowing the names of the photographers.'

Coe said organisers have not received complaints from anyone else on this matter.

However, in light of Beeton's comments, organisers will ‘make it a condition that any guest speakers considering entering the awards that year don't display any images they have entered, or are considering entering'.

Conceding that Beeton had ‘made a good point', she said organisers will consider going a step further by prohibiting any TPOTY speakers from entering at all in the same year.

But Coe emphasised this was not an issue that had crossed the minds of TPOTY judges until now.

‘We will certainly look at the question of speakers at future events.'

Coe continued: ‘Naturally, we have had instances where judges have recognised photographers' work, but they are professional and experienced enough to assess those images anew against the other shots they are judging.'

Organisers say winning images were chosen by 17 photographic experts, based in the UK, the USA and Germany, who assessed ‘anonymous online images and, finally, prints'.

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