Does Behind-the-Scenes Photo Prove This $120,000 Award-Winning Picture was Staged?

An international, $120,000 prize-winning picture praised as “document[ing] an intense humanitarian moment” is having its integrity questioned after a behind-the-scenes photo revealed it may have all been staged.

This year, the theme of the Hamdan International Photography Awards (HIPA) was “Hope,” with the grand prize being awarded to Malaysian photographer Edwin Ong Wee Kee after he snapped a portrait of a mother carrying her two children.

In interviews, Mr Kee told journalists that the snap was “unplanned” and came during an “unforeseen stop.” The award committee described the picture as an “intense humanitarian moment,” adding that it captured “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.”

However, a new photo has surfaced that tells an entirely different story. In it, the woman – the subject of Mr Kee’s winning image – can be seen, stationary and surrounded by a number of photographers, all of whom are taking her portrait from various angles. Needless to say, there are likely hundreds of different versions of Mr Kee’s photo. Photographer and Street Photo BD Magazine founder Ab Rashid shared the image, bringing to light the real story behind the winning photo.

The international competition, based in Dubai, attracted 19,000 people from 121 countries in its second year, and has a total prize fund of $450,000.

Lead image credit: Ab Rashid.

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