How Is a Photograph of Drunken New Year’s Eve Revelers Like a Renaissance Painting?

The real star is the guy still clutching his mug of beer.

Photo: Twitter/@GroenMNG
Photo: Twitter/@GroenMNG
Photo: Manchester Evening News.

Photo: Manchester Evening News.

On New Year’s Day, several photographs capturing the drunken debauchery of the previous evening were released by the Manchester Evening News. Taken by freelance photographer Joel Goodman, the hilariously depraved images—which show locals vomiting, urinating, getting arrested, lying in filth, and, often, in various states of undress—quickly made the rounds online. But one photo in particular has captured the attention of art lovers thanks to its compositional likeness to a classic Renaissance painting.

Photo: Twitter/@GroenMNG

Photo: Twitter/@GroenMNG

As several Twitter users were quick to point out, the photograph, which shows a man being arrested by three police officers while a distressed woman looks on and another man languishes in the street (impressively, still clutching his mug of beer!), is consistent with the “golden ratio,” a mathematical property thought to yield especially aesthetically pleasing compositions.

Works that subscribe to the ratio include Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam, Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières, and Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red.

Photo: Twitter/@NOTLR

Photo: Twitter/@NOTLR

Following the release of the images, BBC producer Roland Hughes tweeted: “So much going on this pic of New Year in Manchester by the Evening News. Like a beautiful painting.” Twitter user Ben Darlow followed suit by turning the image into a digital watercolor using the app Waterlogue. And in classic Internet fashion, the beer-clutching drunkard has also been Photoshopped onto The Creation of Adam, standing in for God, of course.

Goodman told the Manchester Evening Post that the comparisons were “flattering,” but that it was simply a case of being “in the right place at the right time.”

“There are street photographers who regularly make art of these sort of scenes. There are lots of different ways to photograph the same scene,” he said. “It felt like there were fewer people out in the city centre for New Year’s Eve than in previous years, but there was a lot of aggro.”

That’s certainly one way to put it.


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