A renowned photography award has announced its winner, but the win isn’t without controversy after it was revealed the photo might have been staged.
Hamdan International Photography Award (HIPA) named Malaysian photographer Edwin Ong Wee Kee as the 2019 winner, earning him the $120,000 Grand Prize. However, behind-the-scenes photos of the Vietnam shoot, which depicts a mother carrying two children, that have been shared on social media are raising questions of whether the picture was truly award-worthy, reports PetaPixel.
HIPA’s contest’s theme this year was “Hope,” and the winners were named on March 12. However, Kee’s winning photo appears to have been posed as opposed to captured in the moment, despite the photographer claiming it was “unplanned.”
“[H]is photo documented an intense humanitarian moment,” HIPA wrote before allegations arose. “The feelings of a Vietnamese mother whose speech disorder did not prevent her from feeling hopeful and evoking a sense of strength for her children.”
According toPDNPulse: “In the world’s biggest single contest prize open to the global photography community, Malaysian Edwin hit big with his single image taken from a recent photo trip to Vietnam. Although he describes himself as a keen enthusiast, his full-time profession is as a traditional Chinese medicine physician. His roadside shot of a Vietnamese woman and child was not planned and came about due to an unforeseen stop.”
Refuting these “unplanned” claims is Street Photo BD Magazine founder Ab Rashid, who shared behind-the-scenes photos of the award-winning image on Facebook, which show a number of photographers snapping the same image. “Another classic photo of a photography tour group gathered around one subject, shooting the same image from almost the same angle,” reported PicsofAsia.com.
HIPA is a general photographer award, not a photojournalism contest, so the inclusion of this photo broke no rules, according to PetaPixel. However, many photographers are questioning why, out of a number of similar images, this one was chosen as the winner.
According to picsofasia, winning such a competition is a fast track to fame. “Staging a photo and winning a competition, is THE fastest way to reach this stage… Fame that will of course make you become very rich. Because we all know that once you have won a competition, it rains money and National Geographic just can’t get enough of you for their exotic assignments around the world. It is sad, very sad.”
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