The ‘prestigious’ Hamdan International Photography Award (HIPA) has announced its 2019 winners, and Malaysian photographer Edwin Ong Wee Kee won the $120,000 Grand Prize with a photo shot in Vietnam showing a mother carrying two children, but the win is proving controversial today after a behind-the-scenes photo revealed that the shot was apparently staged:
The theme of this year’s HIPA contest was “Hope,” and the winners were unveiled on March 12th. Here’s the image that was used to announce Kee’s winning photo:
“[H]is photo documented an intense humanitarian moment,” HIPA writes. “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.”
And it seems that Kee has been promoting his photo as being the result of an unexpected and “unplanned” moment:
“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,” PDNPulse writes. “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.”
But the photo seems to have been at least a little more planned or posed than Kee describes. Photographer and Street Photo BD Magazine founder Ab Rashid shared a behind-the-scenes photo today that seems to have been taken at around the same time as the winning photo.
“Another classic photo of a photography tour group gathered around one subject, shooting the same image from almost the same angle,” writes picsofasia contest, so there isn’t any rule that was broken in this case. But it’s the fact that one of several similar photos won a prestigious $120,000 cash prize that seems to be leaving a sour taste in many photographers’ mouths.
“Staging a photo and winning a competition, is THE fastest way to reach this stage,” picsofasia continues. “This is the fastest shortcut you can take to obtain fame. 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.
So-called “documentary” photographers have been faking and staging “spontaneous” moments that have been passed off on the public as “real life”. Robert Capa’s famous photo from the Spanish Civil War of a soldier the exact moment he was shot was also staged, along with many other “iconic” photos promoted by the likes of Time-Life. And the purpose of the fakery should be obvious: to manipulate you emotionally toward sympathizing with a particular political point of view that is often not in the viewer’s own best interest.
And we have seen this fakery time and time again during the so-called migrant crisis, as staged photos of drowned children washed up on the beach or “sick or dead” in their mother’s arm while crossing a dangerous border. People from the Third World are experts at looking miserable for the camera because they know by doing so, they can elicit sympathy and money from White people. To convince White people to passively accept their own destruction and displacement, only the best emotional appeals will work, and the ends justify the means.