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Joel Goodman on his NYE “Photo of the Year”

You’ve probably already seen Joel Goodman‘s image of New Year’s Eve revelry in Manchester, England. The viral photo depicts a drunk man lying...

You’ve probably already seen Joel Goodman‘s image of New Year’s Eve revelry in Manchester, England. The viral photo depicts a drunk man lying on the ground, his outstretched arm still grasping for his beer, another man on his back being handcuffed while his distraught date yells (at him or the cops?), a few onlookers casually watching the scene unfold, a line of taxis, and so much more. Each time you view the image, you find another point of interest. It is a stunning piece of photojournalism, and quite frankly, art.

The photo was part of a slideshow package on the Manchester Evening News website, but when BBC producer Roland Hughes tweeted about the image, it was quickly shared and retweeted. Soon it was subject to the whim of the Internet, which responded gleefully with memes galore.

Ben Darlow created a watercolor:

@NOTLR mashed up the drunken man into Michaelangelo.

The beauty of the photo stood up to scrutiny. @GroenMNG proved that the golden ratio applied to Goodman’s image.

Goodman told the Manchester Evening News, “Mostly, a shot like that is just about being in the right place at the right time – I just happened to be in the right spot.” And while there surely was a bit of luck to capturing the photo, Goodman is more than familiar with the locale and the typical revelry of New Year’s Eve. Luck favors the prepared.

The virality of the image pushed curious viewers to Goodman’s PhotoShelter website where he enabled print sales through our print partnership with Loxley Colour in the UK. We spoke to him via email.

With all the revelry going on, New Year’s Eve seems to be a pretty prime photo event. Were you on assignment or shooting on your own?

I’ve been covering this story for years, both as a hobbyist and as a professional. I sent my photos out “on spec” for national press through my agency, London News Pictures, and the local newspaper, The Manchester Evening News, also gave me an order for whatever I shot.

When you came upon this scene, what went through your head? Did you see everything that was happening in the frame when you took the photo?

It was start to finish in a few minutes. I framed the photograph for the police on the ground with the man in the gutter, the man in blue with the beer bottle and the crowd behind. Because I have been shooting this story in this exact area for 8 years, I am very familiar with the layout and the space, so framing the photo becomes more instinctive – e.g. I know the where the street sign is because I’ve photographed it often before.

Were you surprised at the viral reaction and the meme-ification of the image? What do you think makes the image so compelling?

Yes. Overwhelmed. I think people often get fatigued quickly with some memes and viral stories. This is different, I think first because it’s real and secondly because the photograph has many stories which means, when you see it the second and third time, you notice more in it. The fact that it’s compositionally very pleasing also makes it fun for the eye to play over.

Are you concerned about economic loss that results from the appropriation of your source material?

Every day. It is a constant battle and is the biggest cause of economic harm to professional photographers such as myself. I nearly had to quit photography as a job a couple of years ago, when I had my kit stolen from me at knifepoint.

But even with the spectre of image theft and the economic realities of being a photographer, Goodman is still thrilled by the attention and business that the photo has generated. Here’s hoping to many more “Manchester Masterpieces” in 2016 from Goodman.
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