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Uh-oh! Plagiarism controversy rocks the Sony World Photography Awards

Written by
Matt Breen

The sincerest form of flattery, perhaps? We're staying on the fence with this one. Anyway, something strange has happened in this year’s Sony World Photography Awards.

Nominated in the National Awards is Romanian, France-based photographer Alex Andriesi, who created this enchanting picture of a girl wearing a turquoise dress in a softly lit colonnade, holding a yellow balloon and floating in mid-air. Take a look!

Alex Andriesi, 'Far From Gravity', 2017. © Alex Andriesi, Romania, 1st Place, National Awards, 2017 Sony World Photography Awards.

The shortlist was announced back in February, and eventually it reached the attention of Russian, Portugal-based photographer Anka Zhuravleva, who created this enchanting picture of a woman wearing a turquoise dress in a softly lit corridor, holding an orange balloon and floating in mid-air. Take a look!

Anka Zhuravleva, 'Distorted Gravity'. © Anka Zhuravleva.

Naturally, Zhuravleva wasn't too happy when news reached her of Andriesi’s image. ‘It’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence,’ she told Time Out. ‘There are too many similarities. Actually, I’ve got used to being copied. Normally I just smile and let it pass. But contests – they’re about creativity and originality, aren’t they?’ So she publicly criticised Andriesi, and something of a social media firestorm ensued.

Scott Gray, the CEO of the World Photography Organisation said: ‘Our course of action is pretty straightforward and always the same in these situations.’ He went on to explain that upon hearing of Zhuravleva’s claims of plagiarism, his organisation went to Andriesi to provide evidence that he arrived at his own photograph of his own volition. ‘We respect both parties, and talk to them equally and transparently, and in immense depth.’ From Gray’s perspective, the matter is closed: Andriesi has done enough to prove that any similarity between his image and Zhuravleva’s is, in fact, coincidence. 

But those who find that hard to believe may also feel unsatisfied by the fact that Andriesi hasn't released this evidence into the public sphere. In any case, you can see his piece in the awards exhibition, which opens at Somerset House in a couple of weeks’ time.

The Sony World Photography Awards exhibition runs at Somerset House Apr 21-May 7.

Feeling snap-curious? Take a look at our top photography exhibitions in London

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