Photographer's Low-Light Test Photo Goes Viral

Photographer's Low-Light Test Photo Goes Viral

Canadian photographer Nick Wons took to the street to test the low-light performance of his new Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL VR lens. While wandering Queen Street in Toronto, he noticed a man walking away and thought it’d be best to take a snap. He wasn't prepared for what he captured. 

Wons explains, “I was just taking a shot of the guy walking, I didn’t think much of it… I wanted to test the lens out (you know how it is with new toys.” Below is the photo Wons captured:

Timing really is everything. He posted the hilariously captured photo to his local photography groups until he was encouraged by a colleague to share to Reddit. He went on to posting the image on the discussion site and titled the image, “Just shot my first street photography photo where somebody randomly walked into frame projectile vomiting.” Shortly, the photo went to Reddit’s front page and went viral. His post now has over 1.5 million views and 147,000 upvotes, making it one of the most popular photos of the year in that subreddit. Considering over 20 million photographers are subscribed to that subreddit, I'd call that a pretty big achievement. "It's pretty wild," says Wons on the response to the photo. "I've had some hobby photos get a bunch of features and attention, but nothing like this."

Wons continues: "I went to bed and woke up to 131k Karma, texts from friends, and a flooded inbox on all my social media with requests from around the world to buy prints of the shot.”

People actually want to purchase prints of a random man projectile vomiting. Insane. Wons concludes, “This photo just goes to show why I always walk around with my camera out and at the ready, because you never know what’s going to happen next.”

Lead image courtesy of Nick Wons.

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76 Comments

Yan Pekar's picture

What about the ethics of respecting other people life and reputation? Why would you make the photo of someone vomiting public, and ruin his reputation by doing this? I am not aware of laws in Canada but in some countries it would have cost him a fortune for doing this.

You saved me from writing something similar.

He's not clearly recognizable so I say it's fair game.

If you could make out his face and recognize him on the street afterwards, then it's an issue.

But then again, In Canada the courts rueld that you are allowed to take and use the picture as long as you don't profit from exposing the private life of a person.

Here, yes he's exposing his wild night out, but you can't tell exactly who it is (try and ID the guy in apolice line up for example...).

Not an issue. Naming him afterward might be less ethical, but the guy clearly doesn't care.

Having seen the photo, the guy would recognize himself. Probably, his friends would as well. His thoughts on the matter aren't clear to me at all. Perhaps you're psychic!?

The treshold isn't "would someone familiar with him recognize him" but could another stranger recognize him. The idea behind it being that if only 3-4 family member recognize him, he's not recognizable enough to constitute invading his privacy (as in broadcasting his life publicly).

Perhaps you're just looking to pick a fight on internet.

No, not at all. My concern wasn't his privacy but he might be embarrassed for those 3-4 family members or friends to see him like that. I guess he didn't care but the photographer couldn't have known that when it was posted.

bingo. if I caught this at 1/200 or faster he would have been sharp enough to ID, but this was at 1/40 so no dice on that. I asked him if he's cool with being named, he said he is, he's shared the posts with his social media, I still call him Chucky though.

Anyways, he's cool with it and laughed his ass off, no harm, no foul, viral image captured and everybody laughed except the people outraged on other people's behalf.

Yan Pekar's picture

According to the photographer who took the photo, a friend of the guy was able to recognise him. So, he was recognisable.

Yan Pekar's picture

That's the thing. According to the photographer, the man was suffering from illness he could not control rather than from alcohol. And now people think he was drunk. And he was recognisable as a friend of him recognised him.

Spy Black's picture

He wound up communicating and meeting with the guy, shared some laughs, and are now friends.

Yan Pekar's picture

Yes. After he made the photo public and it went viral. Why not approach the guy on the spot asking permission to use the photo, rather than making it public first and then trying to cover his back?

Spy Black's picture

Yeah that would be a perfect time to do that ay? :-D

Why would his reputation be ruined? He did a completely normal biological thing. It's not like he was photographed seig heiling or something.

Yan Pekar's picture

How would you feel if it was photo of you doing the same thing in public? It's normal to say "his reputation is not affected" when we talk about someone else, but what if it were you?

Don't mind Yan, he's just somewhere in a jealous/faux outraged state going off on the comments. There's always that one crayon in the box.

You seem like a nice guy but that was uncalled for.

Yan Pekar's picture

Jealous for the fact that you took a photo of a vomiting man? Seriously?:) Please:) Let's face the truth - it is not something to be proud of. It is not something a professional photographer would consider making public, to start with. Taking advantage of a person who was ill and could not control it is not something a good human being can be proud of. You do have great photos, you seem to know what "aesthetics" is, and you look like an educated man. Or I could be wrong. All the best.

Noah Stephens's picture

There is no expectation of privacy in public. The law values potentially transcendant art more than an individual ability to go undocumented in public. I think that is the correct valuation.

Yan Pekar's picture

You call it "art"?:)

Would have cost whom a fortune in some countries? The guy for vomiting in the middle of the street? Because he's the one clearly violating standards of respect and common decency--and maybe laws--by just hurling in the middle of the sidewalk like that. Now, if he stayed to clean it up, fine. Otherwise, yes, he would deserved some kind of fine.

Yan Pekar's picture

The man who was vomiting in public could have been (he was, according to photographer's comment) suffering from illness that he could not control. In some countries he could have taken the photographer to the court. If it would be a photo of you vomiting in public while suffering from a stomach decease you can't control, what would be your reaction when you realised someone took a photo of you and made it public?

If he got sick, when it comes out, you have no control.

I absolutely wouldn't have posted it had he been sharp and clearly identifiable, like previously stated you couldn't pick him out of a police lineup, if you ask me (and 90% of reddit) he looks like Blake Anderson from the TV show Workaholics more than anything.

He called me on Wednesday when a friend showed him the photo on Reddit, turns out he's a friend of friends of mine from years back, anyways when he saw the photo he "laughed so hard he cried" and tonight we finally met to have a few drinks, laugh, get to know one another, and take in a little bit of how wide this spread, not to mention get the release signed even though one wouldn't be required because he's not clearly identifiable at all...but..never hurts.

oh, and for the record, he's just got a bad stomach that acts up and wasn't drunk that night. :)

Yan Pekar's picture

If a friend could identify him then it was possible to identify the man. Maybe he was there with a family waiting for him nearby; maybe the man was vomiting because of illness rather than alcohol. As you said, he was suffering from a bad stomach, and now thousands of people who saw the photo would have an impression that he was drunk and behaved badly in public. If it were you, would you be comfortable having a photo of you vomiting on the street in public (while suffering from illness you can't control) being made public and go viral? Probably not. I do believe that making his photo public is not ethical and not a thing a professional photographer would do. You sound proud of yourself saying "Timing is everything...Still can't believe this dude walked into a frame and exploded like that", but consider that you are posting a photo of a man who suffered from illness he could not control. Why would you make it public, in the first place? To show that "timing is everything"? To get more likes? To show the world that you are so good that you managed to capture the moment? Do Instagram likes justify ruining other person's reputation and using his illness to get likes? I am not trying to offend you, just trying to understand why people would do such a thing. You were very lucky to have a "friendly" reaction from him. Somebody else could have easily taken you to the court.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

May be Nick can post a photo of himself opening the other guy's lawyer letter if/when he gets one. That would be an even better "realness of life".

Yan Pekar's picture

If it was done in Europe, with the new General Data Protection Regulation law in Europe, it would be a clear court case. I am not aware of laws in Canada, but there might be a similar regulation related to privacy and dignity of individuals. Nick, you may consider getting familiar with GDPR if you ever come to shoot in Europe.

It would absolutely NOT be a 'clear court case' under GDPR. There have been no test cases yet and there is considerable ambiguity over what does and does not constitute personal data in an image under GDPR. Current advice is that it only constitutes clear personal data if the person is the sole focus of the image. Given the man walking away is the focus of the image, *he* would have a stronger case than the man vomiting.

Yan Pekar's picture

Del, I do events photography for corporate clients, and one of the new requirements is (believe it or not) not to have recognisable people in the frame without having their written consent, in order to comply with GDPR. There may have not been test cases yet (of which I am not aware of), you don't want to be one of the first test cases, do you? I had enough on this subject, and cannot afford wasting more time on it. Have a great day.

I do event photography for several corporate clients, none of mine require a release and several of them have taken extensive legal advice on if it could be a breach of GDPR.

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