The lenses, flash and knives are out: Malaysia’s own, Sibu-born photographer Edwin Ong, the recent winner of the prestigious Hamdan International Photography Award 2019, is now being accused by a fellow photog of staging his US$120,000 prize-winning pic.
Non-prize winner Etienne Bossot is claiming via penned blog post, share on his personal Facebook page, that Ong’s harrowing, yet hopeful, photo of a Vietnamese woman and her children was staged.
Staged?! Sir, go on …
Bossot recently added his two-cents into the internet piggy bank of claims and opinions via a blog post called Are you doing it for the photography, or for fame?, telling readers that the woman in frame was actually “an organized stage model.”
Me and my big mouth are at it again!
Posting a side-by-side of Ong’s winner, and another picture showing the scrum of photographers trying to get the shot, Bossot goes on to claim that “the woman seems to pose for them, probably an organized staged model for the photographers who don’t want to have to work very hard for their pictures.”
His post later goes on to offer a slightly contradictory take on his own version of the scenario, saying that the “mother is being assaulted by a group of rude photographers who probably didn’t bother to ask her about her life story. Her face evoking a sense of feeling really uncomfortable.”
Having spoken to Malaysian daily The Star, Ong doubled-down on his photo having been spontaneous, and refuted Bossot’s claims.
He explained that a group of photographers had taken a trip to Vietnam, and were crossing through a rice field area when they came upon the woman and her children.
They paused, asked if she was willing to have her photo taken, and she obliged, sitting on a tree long, while the group snapped away.
“We never told her to stand up or sit down,” he clarified.
This Photograph won 1,20,000US$ in HIPA Photo Contest …But…Behind the scene of the winning photo is here!!
Another member of the group, Ha Lee, has fully backed Ong’s claims, saying that it was “spontaneous and an on-the-spot thing. Not prearranged.”
“There was one lady with her two children. It so happened that they passed by and they were curious and friendly.”
“They looked at what we were doing, we asked the lady whether we can take a photo of her with her children. She was very friendly and said okay.”
“Edwin submitted his photo, and it’s very good. Congratulations to him!”
Ong has brushed off the naysayer, saying he’s “not upset,” as there were many of his fellow peers around who were there to witness the photo being taken first-hand.
And there you go – sometimes it’s just easier to be happy for folks and their achievements, fair-play and all.
This article, Prize-winning Malaysian photographer hits back at claim pic was staged, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!