Personal website presentations change all the time throughout the years. This is the dynamic nature of the web as we know it today. To now expect from me to have taken screenshots of my edits in the past to have proof in the case someone copies my work in the future is not only offensive but also very hurtful and disappointing. This experience has really made me question whether our industry offers an enabling environment for women and non-white practitioners as well as local talent worldwide - or whether a lot of it is just a facade.
Maximilian knows my work. He met with me, and he admitted to meeting with me and seeing my work. At this point, he is the only person who consciously can admit to whether or not he copied my work.
I took a stand to protect my work. But what I am currently experiencing has made me feel very vulnerable and scared. I have been exposed to numerous fake and speculative allegations as well as received private and public attacks adjoining troll social media behavior from people who favor, support or defend Mann.
To my dismay, I have learnt that many of these attacks and allegations have apparently been initiated by Mann's former tutor at the Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts. This has reached a level that is now scary. As much as I wanted to stand up for my work, these discussions are not taking place in a safe, enabling and professional environment. My fear now is that the conversation will be distorted into one where somehow I will be blamed for his wrongdoings.
To protect my mental and emotional health, and because I find this entire experience a complete heartbreak, I am stepping back from responding to these abusive counter-allegations. It is an attempt to detract from the initially questioned issues and to defame me by putting my word in question. This abuse is precisely the conduct that needs to stop in our industry, and I hope my colleagues, editors and publishers, realize how concerning it really is.
The World Press Photo Foundation has been conducting an investigation in this matter for a month now. I sincerely hope the organization's investigation will be thorough and that it includes not only Docks collective's recent allegations which are filled with defamatory misinformation, but also with the screenshots of emails and messages that Maximilian Mann and his tutor have sent to many other colleagues - photographers and editors - initiating a public catcall.
I know who I am. I know my love and dedication to my work and stories. I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to everyone who has been expressing their support in one or another way, recently and during my entire difficult career. I hope those who have known me for years will support my silence while World Press Photo finalizes their investigation. After all, trust is the main pillar this profession is based upon. In the meantime, I hope this experience has revealed the difficult conversations our industry needs to have around the lack of enabling environment, process, and structures for freelance professional photographers today – especially on how local talent outside the media power regions in Europe and the US are affected.