Andrejs Strokins on the extraordinary photo that went from local news to viral meme

20 February 2017

Latvian photographer Andreijs Strokins is interested in “everyday errors” — random and comical moments of failure, incongruity and irony — which he finds on streets corners and billboards and records on his phone. Yet, his most memorable “everyday error” to date is one that involved the photographer himself.

During his graphic printmaking studies, Strokins split his time at the Academy of Fine Arts in Latvia with working at A.F.I press photo agency. At the beginning of 2007, on his last assignment at the photo agency, he was sent to photograph Riga’s Krasta Street, which was severely flooded at the time. He returned with one image of a municipal worker waiting innocently while a whirlpool forms around him, with the water running into a manhole that resembles a giant plughole. Naturally, the image attracted a lot of attention online and found new life through memes.

“The image became viral from there. It was circulating around the web and was picked up by MSBNC’s selection of the best images of the year. I remember that I was amazed that this image was seen by more than 40,000 people. I have tried to imagine them standing in one room. The internet still was innocent in 2007. Now it has reached this oversaturated state where nothing matters. We are moving from one scrap of information to another just to forget everything that we saw five minutes ago,” Strokins told The Calvert Journal.

However, earlier this month he realised it wasn’t all over for the municipal worker and the crazy whirlpool — the image is now available for purchase on popular online art retailer Art.com.

“This is my favourite everyday error,” Strokins says. He describes seeing this image on the wall of a luxury apartment on the site as being quite surreal: “I couldn’t imagine that something like this could happen one day. I have no control over distribution and selling rights for this image, but it is interesting to see how it is used in different contexts.”

Find out what other memes have been created from the image on this page, and read Strokins’s interview for the New East Photo Prize special report here.