PetaPixel

Sleeping Man Photo Wins BJP Award but Gets Bashed by Readers

The British Journal of Photography announced recently that South African photographer Michelle Sank’s image “Man asleep on the Golden Mile, Durban, South Africa.” had won the single image category of its International Photography Award.

The image, which shows a man asleep in a park just off the Golden Mile in Durban, was described by judges Nick Galvin, Bruno Ceschel and Diane Smyth as both surreal and disturbing, and was picked out from 338 other entries because of its quiet, enduring intensity. “The more I look at it, the more powerful it becomes,” commented Galvin, who manages the archive at Magnum London.


The announcement prompted quite a bit of activity in the comments. Here’s a selection:

Wait, what? This is about as powerful as my pinky finger. Is this a joke/hoax?

Is this some sort of joke? I’m afraid this is a terrible picture of poverty. You people really do need a reality check. What planet are you on?

I’m not gonna beat around the bush. The image is rubbish and says nothing at all about poverty.
If this is what is judged to be a great photograph then one has to ask who the hell was doing the judging?
Considering the thousands of breath taking photos, taken this shouldn’t even be on the list.
Like most photographers, who make a living selling their work that photo would not even be downloaded from my card had I taken it.
Utter crap.

Looks like a Flickr “pro” image to me!
No wonder the business is going west..The public perception must be (in reality) “hey is that a winning image?..
Geee I can do that” And thus one more six inch nail gets rammed into the coffin of professional photography…
Makes me seeth :-)

Photos such as this mock photography, erode its credibility, and do a terrible disservice to those photographers who put real skill and effort into their work.
This is nothing more than a happy snap of a lunchtime sleeper, one of thousands you will find all around the world at midday. Disturbing? Gimme a break!

What do you think of this photograph?

(via The Online Photographer)


Update: One of the judges has posted a response to the criticism.


Image credit: Man asleep on the Golden Mile, Durban, South Africa by Michelle Sank


 
  • http://twitter.com/malixe malixe

    It is pretty underwhelming.

  • Anonymous

    Someone above chose to trash Flickr Pro users – as though they have no skill. I find that condesending attitude as disturbing as the choice of the winning photo.

  • http://twitter.com/MacRamsay Ramsay MacFarlane

    My mate fell asleep in the park the other day…

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.boyer Nick Boyer

    Nothing special.

  • Basbeeky

    ´Poverty´ wasn’t the first thing I thought of. The first thing I though of was “this is it?” Dissapointing in my opinion.

  • Basbeeky

    ´Poverty´ wasn’t the first thing I thought of. The first thing I though of was “this is it?” Dissapointing in my opinion.

  • Lee

    All life’s necessities. Pillow/food and reading material/TP.

  • Lee

    All life’s necessities. Pillow/food and reading material/TP.

  • http://twitter.com/JackCallum Jack Kennedy

    I think the comment about a ‘lunchtime sleeper’ isn’t thought through, you wouldn’t get THAT much dust on the bread packaging over an after noon!

  • http://twitter.com/JackCallum Jack Kennedy

    I think the comment about a ‘lunchtime sleeper’ isn’t thought through, you wouldn’t get THAT much dust on the bread packaging over an after noon!

  • http://twitter.com/ottorobba Otto Robba

    Wow that is one crappy photo. I mean it. It has absolutely no emotion, it is not pleasing nor strange to the eye it is just… something any idiot could take with a cellphone camera. Really. :/

  • http://twitter.com/ottorobba Otto Robba

    Wow that is one crappy photo. I mean it. It has absolutely no emotion, it is not pleasing nor strange to the eye it is just… something any idiot could take with a cellphone camera. Really. :/

  • http://twitter.com/BANANAMANANAS Josh Ladella

    That judge had to have been bribed to even consider this photo.

    However, if not…Facebook is flooded with hangover pictures that (up till now) I always thought were photographic catastrophes. Maybe I should reconsider my instinctive “Why what that picture even taken?” reaction next time I see one.

  • http://twitter.com/brandi_w60 Brandi Wall

    I think this is an utter piece of garbage. How can this hold a candle to scenes of women with their children begging for change? How do we know this guy is not just another drunk snoozing off the buzz till his next one? Come on people, this is not photojournalism! this is not real photography! This is just someone who caught a man passed out. You can tell he is not poor, he has a bag of items next to him.

  • http://twitter.com/brandi_w60 Brandi Wall

    What dust? That is a gray bag. even if there was “dust” you have to remember he is in a country that is a near desert at most times so yes that can appear over a period of a few minutes with a good breeze.

  • http://photo.popmonkey.com popmonkey

    it’s pretty realistic – iconic images of poverty are a sort of lie exploited by the photographer, subject, and viewer.

    that being said, without the title this photograph is pretty meaningless so i have to agree that i can’t understand how it got picked.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanmurray Jonathan Murray

    My 2c. I’m not sure whether any of the commenters have every spent any time in South Africa and Durban in particular. I have. While this might not have been my choice for the prize I think I do understand why the judges picked it. The picture doesn’t stand on its own. It has to be viewed in the context of where it is shot and what it ‘Might’ represent. As social commentary/reportage it is a very powerful image IMHO.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanmurray Jonathan Murray

    My 2c. I’m not sure whether any of the commenters have every spent any time in South Africa and Durban in particular. I have. While this might not have been my choice for the prize I think I do understand why the judges picked it. The picture doesn’t stand on its own. It has to be viewed in the context of where it is shot and what it ‘Might’ represent. As social commentary/reportage it is a very powerful image IMHO.

  • http://www.makesitgood.net/ Alex

    Yeah, that’s rubbish.

    Without the description it would have no context or meaning at all except “here’s some guy laying on the ground.”

  • http://twitter.com/windwalkerpics Windwalker Studio

    Pretty crappy pic to win an award really.

  • http://twitter.com/windwalkerpics Windwalker Studio

    Pretty crappy pic to win an award really.

  • http://twitter.com/windwalkerpics Windwalker Studio

    Pretty crappy pic to win an award really.

  • Graham

    There is nothing interesting in the composition, there is nothing interesting in the colours, there is nothing interesting in the subject. Just nothing interesting.
    If this was presented in my portfolio I would guarantee that I wouldn’t get any work. What the hell were the so called judges thinking? Please explain so we can either learn of laugh.. Thanks

  • Graham

    There is nothing interesting in the composition, there is nothing interesting in the colours, there is nothing interesting in the subject. Just nothing interesting.
    If this was presented in my portfolio I would guarantee that I wouldn’t get any work. What the hell were the so called judges thinking? Please explain so we can either learn of laugh.. Thanks

  • Graham

    There is nothing interesting in the composition, there is nothing interesting in the colours, there is nothing interesting in the subject. Just nothing interesting.
    If this was presented in my portfolio I would guarantee that I wouldn’t get any work. What the hell were the so called judges thinking? Please explain so we can either learn of laugh.. Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/magicmadzik Madzia Bryll

    More context is necessary for that photo to work as a standalone. That’s what makes it unworthy of the prize, the compelling story sits entirely in the caption, and it is hard to believe that there was not enough opportunity to let the photo itself tell it. The man is in a vacuum, he may be poor and exhausted, he may just be a student napping at lunch, we cannot be moved by his situation because all the visuals which could trigger that response have been left out of the frame. Instead of making us curious to find out more, the photo fails to suggest that there is anything worth being curious about…

  • http://photo.popmonkey.com popmonkey

    c’mon… i’m going to give you the benefit of doubt that you’re just goofing around

    however, for anyone who might take you seriously:

    those women with their children begging for change – how come THEY’RE the ones that iconify poverty? because photographers flock to them stepping OVER other poor people. chances are pretty good that a man passed out on the grass is poor. chances are there are a lot more poor people in his state than women with big eyed children reaching their hands out and crying well practiced tears.

    he has a few items next to him so he’s not poor? what if those are his worldly possessions? wouldn’t that be more poignant than the illusion of the iconic poor person with nothing aside the rags on their backs?

    i still this photograph is poor. poorly composed, exposed, etc. it’s not interesting. you do need to have something INTERESTING to show if you want to make a difference…

  • Clint Davis

    oh wow what a train wreck lol

  • http://twitter.com/blabbermoth Jorge

    This is embarrassing. He has a magazine and a box of some beverage. His hands and fingernails are clean. This is not poverty. Whoever works for this organization should be embarrassed for lauding this impersonal snapshot.

  • http://twitter.com/brandi_w60 Brandi Wall

    I am sorry but what in that photo screams a loaf of bread is a worldly possession? I was using a woman and kids as an example because that is what most people use, yes, I agree there are other ways of showing it, but this garbage does not say that to me, it screams drunk man passed out on the way home with a loaf of bread for the family after stopping at a bar or hanging out with his friends. this by no means screams poor to me. he has a magazine in his pocket, his pants are not even worn that bad to be considered a homeless or poor man. Sure the sweat shirt looks a bit dirty, but that could mean that he works for a living. This does not scream poor, poverty, homeless, whatever they were trying to convey in the photo, enough said.

  • domi

    Chuckling at most of the previous comments…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    The photo exactly what I would expect from “misunderstood” artists. It’s not great, but it’s creating a lot of discussion and making a lot of people angry while showing only a vague idea.

    I think it sucks. I think a lot of expensive art sucks. I don’t think this should have won any awards.

    Compare this to Migrant Mother, a true great image of poverty.

  • ruth

    what’s this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    “he has a few items next to him so he’s not poor? what if those are his worldly possessions? ”

    I think the problem here is that when you see a man passed out in the park with a book and a bag, you don’t simply assume that those are his only possessions. You assume a man is at a park taking a nap.

    This photo has no real message, it’s a vague suggestion of several possible scenes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    I mean, seriously… this looks like an average day at Dolores Park in San Francisco…

  • patrick

    well, I like it. its disturbingly “lifelike” and not something with hyper colors and perfect composition.

  • Hispañola

    WTF?? I walked right over this guy to shoot something else a few feet away. Should have shot this myself. In fact, I think I saw a paycheck in his OTHER hand, next to an empty bottle of Veuve Clicquot. LOL. Really though, those are some pretty clean pants for a “poor dude”.

    I’ve shot so many like this. Sleeping friends, sleeping dogs, friends sleeping WITH dogs… I need to submit more of ‘em.

    I hope she/the winner @ least shares the pot/prize w/ her subject.

  • Brooks

    You know what’s funny? I thought it was a decent image when I thought it was a brick of drugs next to his head, and the butt of a rifle next to him. :-)

  • Mead Norton

    If that is the winning photo, I would hate to see what the other submissions looked like….

  • http://twitter.com/meloCreative Paul Melo

    This is the kind of pretentious drivel you would find hanging in a gallery with a bunch of unaccomplished art snobs gushing over it’s deep subtext and artful minimalism. When in reality it is a shitty photo I may have taken with my iPhone then deleted because I was simply playing with the new HDR feature and thought I’d capture a fleeting moment of a man on the ground.Boring crap. Who the hell are these ‘judges’? Come on already.Another reason why I’ve never entered any contests. Meh.

  • http://twitter.com/HappyTinfoilCat Happy Tinfoil Cat

    This may have very well been the top pick. We just need to see the other 363 entries to see if the others were, in fact, not better. The native photographer may have captured something compelling for South Africa. The subject has a magazine so he probably is literate, clean hands and pants, hmmm. The photographer corrected the article and said it is not a photo of poverty. I’m wondering if the judges were making a cruel joke on the photographer for submitting it.

  • myrna minkoff

    I, for one, find this image powerful and haunting. I didn’t see the other submissions, and therefore can’t say if it’s deserving of the prize, but as a photograph in its own right, it’s rock solid. I’d rather this win the prize than just another, oh, beautiful capture of the natural world.

    Some of the above comments are really unbelievable, however. I can’t believe that anyone would question this man’s economic standing. They must be joking.

  • http://twitter.com/coaten Chris Oaten

    It’s rubbish. A disposable image.

  • an honest guy

    Did you read what you just wrote? Or at least look at the picture?

  • Filipe Guia

    That was me!!! Oh my God, i was so drunk… wait, am i entitled to some kind of reward? Because if i am, there’s a new place opening up next saturday night and you can take me another winning picture on sunday morning. Maybe, just maybe, you can caught me with my pants down. Sometimes happens…

  • Hysyanz

    yea it is a pretty crap picture.

  • Photosophy

    I thought it was another police photo a dead Mexican drug gangster next to a big package of coke.

    After I read what it really was, I had to wonder if it was fake…the shadows make it look like a night photograph flashed over with several monster strobes.

  • Sterling

    “The image, which shows a man asleep in a park just off the Golden Mile in Durban, was described by judges Nick Galvin, Bruno Ceschel and Diane Smyth as both surreal and disturbing, and was picked out from 338 other entries because of its quiet, enduring intensity. “The more I look at it, the more powerful it becomes,” commented Galvin, who manages the archive at Magnum London.”

    That quote reminds me exactly of the old “Seinfeld” episode where the pretentious art collectors admire “The Kramer.”

  • Anonymous

    Some people just don’t know how to talk about photography. I would actually expect some of the authors of those quotes to be looking at only “flickr pro users” work, glorifying overdone HDRs and +50 vibrance photos of indian street performers.

    It’s not an awful image. It could’ve been photographed better. But it has humor, mystery, etc etc etc and can definitely be talked about.

  • Flickrman

    Where is the Golden Mile in that picture? Even a non-pro flickr user could take better picture than this one :d I think, Michelle Sank got EOS 550D with kit lens and became a professional photographer the very next week.

    Otherwise, judges must be from the Fortune’s Top 20 richest persons in the world. Thats why they didnt know what does poverty mean. BJP award is joke of the year. hehehe