On Honesty and Integrity: Statement on the Removal of Souvid Datta’s Work From Our Website

The Alexia Foundation has long been a leader in helping photographers pursue their passion to develop serious documentary photographic projects. We have proudly funded student and professional photographers for more than 27 years.

One of those students was Souvid Datta who received a student Award of Excellence Grant in 2013. The grant was $500 in cash and up to $1,500 to attend an educational workshop. Through a series of recent developments Mr. Datta has admitted that he manipulated many photographic images and that he stole images from other photographers and incorporated them into his own.

The founders and the board of directors of The Alexia Foundation have removed Mr. Datta’s images from the foundation’s website and they will not be reposted.

“The Alexia Foundation stands for honesty and integrity in the stories we fund,” said Dr. Peter and Aphrodite Tsairis, Alexia Foundation co-founders. “We demand that our grant recipients respect and adhere to the highest standards of photojournalistic ethics. That is why we have terminated our relationship with Mr. Datta and have removed his project from our website and files. In addition, an asterisk will be placed next to his name on the list of Alexia grant recipients indicating these transgressions.”

“Honesty, integrity and compassion are what distinguishes the kind of documentary photography we support. Any question of ethical violations goes to the core of this noble profession we love. It stirs doubt and erodes public trust. We cannot allow questions of doubt to linger and we cannot support work that has even a suggestion of doubt,” said Dr. and Mrs. Tsairis.

14 thoughts on “On Honesty and Integrity: Statement on the Removal of Souvid Datta’s Work From Our Website

  1. “Honesty, integrity and compassion are what distinguishes a photojournalist from a photographer.” As an honest, compassionate person with integrity who is also “just” a photographer, I take great offense that you claim that these qualities distinguish a photojournalist from a photographer. Surely you did not mean to be so insulting.

  2. Pingback: Updated: Souvid Datta Admits to Manipulating 2013 Photo | PDNPulse

  3. I don’t know, but from my visual assessment I would even have some doubt about this year’s recipient. Not necessarily her deception, but perhaps something else. How did her very good work receive the merit of excellence? Did the judges know before her work visually and promote it, knowing who created what kinds of imagery from their previous judging experience? Yes, at least one of the judges knew her work from another contest and website. Shouldn’t that judge have recused themselves from the judging process in order to ensure that the process was as objective as possible? And why doesn’t the Alexis Foundation create safeguards against these kinds of abuses?

    • We have a policy of insisting that judges recuse themselves if they know the photographer and/or the work. Specifically, at this year’s competition, Mike Davis publicly reminded the judges of this requirement at the outset of the judging.

  4. And with that us mere photographers hope the Alexa Foundation obsessive and often titilating focus on women and girls as victims comes to an end. It is unconscionable that while minors as victims of sex crimes are protected from photographic exploitation in the west to have this obsession devolve into the celebration of kitsch restaging and even copy pasting to continually supply more “journalistic” material is revolting. Where are the photos of the girls in Scotland fallen victim to prostitution gangs? Nowhere thank goodness. But the coverup by authorities of the state? Why is Alexia Foundation incentivizing a gaze of victimization and exploitation and then funding such kitsch? The photos should stay up as a wall of shame that every future jury for Alexia Foundation may think twice whether “journalistic showing” of victimization is not part and parcel of exploitation. I recommend soul searching for those that recognized “talent” when they saw it based on past exposed nightmare that looked the part but had been resold and shopped as a dream that still made the dollars flow. Full disclosure – I applied the same year to this focus on women and crafted my submission expressly rejecting the exploitive gaze of victimization written into the call. This episode clearly shows that robbing photographic subjects of agency or capturing those that have none does not guard against the manufacture of propaganda. The opposite is true.

    • The work by Mr. Datta that we had on our site did not have victims of sex trafficking. It was done before he began to focus on issues of trafficking.

      Nonetheless, we thank you for your deep empathy for the victims of sex trafficking and the thoughtfulness you bring to your own work on this issue.

  5. Thank you so much for the stance you have taken and publicly announced on Souvid Datta. I have posted your announcement on my FB page. I think your actions might make people pay attention but this certainly should be an ongoing conversation and the Alexia Foundation could and should lead it. I’m still irritated at Time Magazine for interviewing him, although I also think it was good for anyone thinking of ever repeating his actions, to see the embarrassment and public humiliation this man is going through. So I’m torn about that even as I read the interview. I spent an hour with him looking at his work last year at Visa Pour L’Image. I was amazed at the access he seemed to have procured on the sex trade. But some of his coverage seemed almost too good to be true. Thank you for taking the strongest public stand on this issue. Maggie Steber

  6. What has happened has left me disgusted at the way Datta has taken liberties so brazenly but also at the inability of the judges or editors to notice it. But I applaud your immediate stance. At the same time I would also like to point out that although such heartbreaking stories as girl/child abuse, trafficking, sex slaves, forced into prostitution at a very young age are stories that need to be told, would the same story coming out of Western Europe garner such attention, such accolade? Did Souvid Datta had to come to India only to gain fame? For Alexia Foundation that should also be a question. The exploitation of poverty, abuse, rape,violence, are the only theme that seems to impress the judges to grant funds and awards. I am a photographer but not a photo journalist and I would like to believe I work with honesty, compassion and integrity. And I will not be as famous a Datta because my themes do not focus on victim stories. I’m not disputing the importance of such themes but the language, geography, ethnicity all comes into play at times to decide which is the more important ‘victim’ story to focus. I hope we in the photography community will really wake up and learn something from this horrible episode.