Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.8.7

Stock Photography Review

Very Special Murder Mystery Edition
all photos by the same (odd) photographer



The Victim


“Yep, totes died.”


The Detective
“Yep, totes died.”


The Commissioner


“Do you really have to dress like that, Jerry?”


The Detective


“Why it’s jinkees, my dear Watson.”




“Jerry, I’m with Garrett now, you know this.”


The Detective




Suspect One

Suspect One

“I committed other crimes!”


Suspect Two


“My only crime is handsomeness. Also other crimes.”


Suspect Baby


“O, god, can I really talk? And where’d I get this necklace. I’m a monster. A monster!”


Suspect Scandinavian Boy


“So when you’re near me, darling can’t you hear me/S. O. S./The love you gave me, nothing else can save me/S.O.S.”




“O, just pumping iron here in this McDonald’s bathroom.”


Suspect He Did It
“Yeah, it sort of seems like I did it.”


The Detective


“A clue!”


Suspect He Did It
“Can I see it?”


The Detective




Weird Clue Dream


“O, come on! Really? Sigh. Yeah, that guy did it.”


The Detective




Comment / Posted in Mystery, Scandinavians, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.7.25

Stock Photography Review


So it’s been a long time since this blog dealt with stock photography on any regular basis, but occassionally someone still sends something along (like Maggi did here). Thanks to B. for today’s image which, let’s face it, is going to be used in some state-sponsored tourism campaign.


Too on the nose.


Heaven isn’t really north, stupid Alaska.


Futura? Really, Oregon?


Getting there.


Strange one to even try, frankly.


A little too subtle.


Perfect but I made that one up.


And there we go. Of course.


Comment / Posted in Advertising, States, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.5.12

Did the Huffington Post Change?

No, no it did not.

I love this lady’s face, by the way. She could be contemplating anything–war, the loss of a parent, a particularly difficult trigonometry problem–but, nope, it’s her lack of a husband due inevitably to her permanent consternation.

Comment / Posted in Marriage, Stock Photography, Why?

Exhibit 1.5.11

Today In Misguided Stock Photography

O, Huffington Post, don’t ever change.

Comment / Posted in Bad Ideas, Posts, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.4.13

Stock Photography Review
Sadsack Businessmen

To honor Mathias Svalina’s I Am a Very Productive Entrepreneur–and at the long ago suggestion of one Jimmy Stockham–here are some some sadsack businessmen. But first, you should be sure to pick up Mathias’s book which is amazing and entrepreneurial and portable and here. I read it months ago and my favorites have stuck with me long after I should have been paying attention to other things like teaching or writing or whatever it is I do.

“Things are going to get better, Robert, things are going to get better. You’ve got French cuffs and this is going to be okay.”

“Makeup can make my cheeks shine, my lips pop, and my hair porcupine, but it can’t make Vanessa come back.”

“Why did I start a private architecture library? Nobody went to the one at school and nobody is going to this one either. I don’t even know what an architecture library is.”

“When they find me, I’ll have to say something cute like ‘I’ve got motherboard issues.’ Not the truth, not yet.”

“More like a notary sad.”

“When there was only one set of footprints, it was because I was claiming you as a dependent.”

“Dress for the job you want, they said, but I’m still here at the front desk and no closer to that handjob.”

“Hey, Cindy. Cindy! Are you having emotions?”

“Okay, keep it together. She might still want to buy the steak knives. What was her name? Vanessa something?”

“I hope it’s a nice day outside and not one of those this-hellish-white-landscape-is-a-metaphor-for-how-I’m-dying-inside days. O, goddamnit.”

“Every year I find a way to ruin the company Christmas party, and firing everyone to hire Prince to perform may have been the best way yet.”

“Stay calm, Robert, this is happening. We always knew it would. O God. Think of the cuffs.”

Bonus! Submit your own caption for this one in the comments:

And don’t forget to buy Mathias’s book at SPD.

4 Comments / Posted in Business, Reviews, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.4.11

Today in Confusing Stock Photography

O, The Huffington Post. You’re the world’s number one purveyor of slideshows about bad stock photography and bad stock photography.

Also, not so good at the irony.

Comment / Posted in Money, Posts, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.1.20

The Social Network in Stock Photos

Featuring a gorilla as Mark Zuckerberg. In seven acts.

Act 1

“I need to do something substantial in order to get the attention of the clubs. They’re exclusive and fun, and they lead to a better life.”

Act 2

“We’re ranking girls.”

Act 3

“As for the charges, I believe I deserve some recognition from this board.”

Act 4

“I’m talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.”

Act 5

“It’s like a Final Club except we’re the president.”

Act 6

“You’re gonna blame me because you were the business head of the company and you made a bad business deal with your own company?”

Act 7

“If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”

The End

♫Baby, You’re a Rich Man♫

1 Comment / Posted in Gorillas, Movies, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.1.8

Stock Photography Review

Another great found stock photo from Maggi who also sent me this one with the hotdogs. As with that one, this photo is almost too weird to do anything with other than present. It’s so strange these exist as stock photos–and royalty-free photos–because it implies wide usage when, really, you’d think the one guy who needs this photo could just find a couple of game friends, attend an open house at a for-sale mansion, slip away from the agent, and…

Almost as good as the photo itself are the keywords you can search for to get this photo (officially titled “A Naked Woman on a Bathtub with a Naked Man Crouching over Her Head” which, frankly, seems a little cumbersome):

Agility? Dreams? Standing out from the crowd? Teamwork?

Okay, I’ll give them agility.

Still, there’s something kind of awesome in sending this into Getty as a stock photo. I don’t know if there’s a writer equivalent of this, but it probably involves getting an assignment to write about a sporting event and turning in some language poetry, just like Rae Armantrout did when asked to cover the 1984 Orange Bowl.

For what it’s worth, I would have titled the photo “The Wife of Bath’s Bath” although that maybe works better for the old-timey pornography version nobody asked me to make:

1 Comment / Posted in Action Teams, Bad Ideas, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.1.1

Stock Photography Review

So, in honor of this blog’s arbitrary system of numbering rolling over, I thought I’d post some stock photography from the Huffington Post, a great site to find this kind of nonsense. These are two I grabbed just now from the front page.

I love this one just because this photo could be used more logically for dozens of other headlines. Among them:

1) “Local Face Goes All M.C. Escher”
2) “Sexting. Time to Talk to Your Friends about It?”
3) “Listen Closely–Yes, That Close”
4) “25 Family Secrets (PHOTOS)”
5) “Are You Getting Good Advice about Your Sideburns?”

Apparently we’re supposed to think this is how insider trading happens, but I’d prefer to think this is actually how federal investigations happen. Like one long game of Telephone where the last agent just shrugs and says, “Martha Stewart? Well, okay.”

Guy in photo: So I’m the struggling American office worker, right?
Photographer: O, yeah, totally.
Guy: Because my Outlook’s open here and this Word document.
Photographer: Definitely, definitely.
Guy: I just don’t want it to be used for anything creepy.
Photographer: Let’s try one where you’re licking the screen.
Guy: Right! Because I’m hungry for a living wage!

2 Comments / Posted in Marthas, Reviews, Stock Photography

Exhibit 23.19

Stock Photography Review

Image 1 – Bad. In all likelihood, this person’s only conception of home ownership is when he returns the shopping cart he’s been living out of to an abandoned Kroger in order to prove to himself that, despite this post-apocalyptic wasteland, he’s still a man.

Image 2 – Good. This person is demonstrably smoking and her agape mouth shows her interest in breaking news about same.

Image 3 – Wash. On the one hand, this person might have credit card debt. On the other, this photo only made me want to start an early Cat Stevens cover band called “The First Cat is the Deepest.”

Comment / Posted in Kroger, Smoking, Stock Photography

Exhibit 21.12

Stock Photography Review

Much thanks to Maggi for passing along this incredible piece of misguided stock photography. Honestly, I’ve been sitting on this for months because I just didn’t know what to say about it. In the end, I decided to give it a shot with various taglines to find the target market.


Way off.

I don’t think Burger King serves hotdogs. Nope, I don’t think they serve uncooked hotdogs at all. Unless that’s the way you want it.

I don’t know why I even tried this one.


And there we go.

5 Comments / Posted in Bad Ideas, Boys, Stock Photography

Exhibit 19.15

Stock Photography Review

There have been or will be a lot of birthdays among some of the most important people in my life this month. My sister Kaitlin’s birthday was June 1st. My brother Jeff’s birthday is June 16th. Lincoln Saltdogs pitcher David Humen’s birthday was June 11th. Happy birthday, everyone. Especially you, David. You most of all.

In honor of the siblings (and, more importantly, some other guy) here’s some birthday-related stock photography.

I don’t really have anything to say here other than that I initially thought those were giant Mike and Ike’s which sent me to the Just Born company website to see if they also made giant Hot Tamales. Then I started looking at the Peeps and, well, it’s now dark out, I’ve got a day’s worth of stubble, and at some point in the last 18 hours I tried to send a text message to my parents’ home phone asking if I could borrow $1,800 in order to develop a gallon-size Hot Tamale mold.

This is better than the last time I looked at the Just Born company’s website when I woke up in the geographic center of the United States with an empty bag of Jet-Puffed marshmallows, a sticky pocket knife, and an army of poorly whittled marshmallow bunnies replicating Khalid ibn al-Walid’s famous flanking maneuver.

So I guess what I’m saying is, good luck, kid.

In most cultures, gifts are given by ascending height in a precisely ordered queue so as to increase the family’s odds of being used in an AT&T billboard campaign.

Which birthday is the whipped-cream birthday again? Oh, right, the last one.

Look, I know the kid is bummed because she only got half-inflated balloons and wilting flowers for her birthday, but the fact that they ordered a frowning cake leads me to believe this wasn’t totally unexpected.

Why doesn’t anyone like Julia?

Maybe it’s because she’s always changing clothes and eating flaming candles when we’re not looking. In fact, I’d say that’s exactly why we don’t like Julia. But it’s not why we hate her. No, that’s something only she knows.

Since this came up on a search for birthday, I can only assume this kid was born on December 25th. Hey, so was this guy:

Stock Photography Jesus is my favorite Jesus. All you need is a tanned white guy with a beard, a ghost costume with some rope tied around the middle, and access to an old stable.

This isn’t birthday related, but Stock Photography Jésus the Québécoise Gangster is my favorite Jésus the Québécoise Gangster.

See, I hate that. That takes all the fun out of guessing which box is the one crying.

It’s like how at your wedding I’m going to get you something from Crate & Barrel and you’re going to know it because of their boxes. Except this time it’s a baby rather than whatever is exactly $65 on your registry. I’m just going to stop typing now.

(still not typing)

Jésus the Québécoise Gangster had forgotten he’d planned the kidnapping on the same day as his birthday. I’ve just been working so hard it completely slipped my mind. It’s not easy to time an explosion at the stroke of midnight to distract the guards. Who has time to plan a soirée and an underhanded seduction? Besides, who would I invite, François the getaway driver? I don’t think so, he explained to the judge’s daughter. Do you think my son will remember to call?

I don’t know what’s going on with these two. They make Julia seem well-adjusted. Maybe we should set her up with blue-shirt guy.

1 Comment / Posted in Birthdays, Reviews, Stock Photography

Exhibit 18.15

Stock Photography Review


This was one of the first images that came up in a search for ‘rain’ with the results sorted by most popular. This led to the following revelations:

1) I’ve stumbled upon a stock photography service based in the Dune universe
2) Long, flowing ribbons are back (finally!)
3) Marketers have finally realized what we all want: futuristic athletes posing before a post-apocalyptic background wearing anachronistically normal tennis shoes
4) I’ll buy what this image is used to sell (presumably frozen yogurt. Oh, please God let it be frozen yogurt)

Finally, an image appropriate for my stick-based implements store. I was tired of using that one with the gold-shorted ribbon guy. By the way, we’re having a special on tree trimmers this week. Just saying.

Harold understood why his parents didn’t want to pay for the plastic bubble, but he wasn’t sure they understood about pathogens or the nature of his immuno deficiency when they gave him the raincoat and umbrella for his birthday. Later, they’d all watch the John Travolta movie again, and he’d be sure to cough at the key parts. Of course, he’d be coughing anyway. Next year for his birthday he wanted to still be alive.

When the time came, his father insisted he buried in the raincoat. He loved that thing, his father said. That and that one movie with John Travolta. God, he always made us watch that movie.

Yep, Dune universe.

Hey, that’s not how rain works!

Hey, that’s not how rain or lightning work!

Hey, that’s not how rain or boots or baby ducks work!

This is how British people work.

Everyone agreed the phalanx was cute. Too cute? Well, that was for General Mittens to decide when he got back from the gumdrop store. They assumed the Germans would wait.

4 Comments / Posted in Baby Ducks, Rain, Stock Photography

Exhibit 17.4

Stock Photography Review

I did this in the fall, skipped the winter, and am back to do it now that it’s “spring.”

(Ed note: It is not in any way spring. Here’s how cold it is here: there is no coffee in our office, and I can’t make myself walk outside to go find some. For whatever reason, I decided it would be spring when I got back from my last trip and nothing about scraping my windshield every morning or my apartment being 50 degrees is making me change my mind. That’s why I’m wearing these shorts and carrying this kite).

As always, these photos are from the first few pages of results for the relevant words.

Spring is the time we…

…teach our kids about religion.

…finally tell Joey how much he’s disappointing us by not excelling at soccer. Or even understanding the rules. And those capri pants he wears don’t help either. Oh, god, Mary, do think Joey might be, you know? No, no, he can’t be. I’ve seen him talk to that girl in his class, that little Susie Swanson. Oh, god, I think he was telling her where he got his capris. That’s it, Joey’s getting a basketball for Easter and this time I’m not going to let him pick out the sparkliest one.

…get too literal.

…revise our resolutions and decide that, yes, this year we will start running–but for different reasons.

…win it all back from Santa, some debaucherous leprechaun, and, um, a guy dressed up as Wonder Woman? Also, teach our kids even more about religion.

…finally catch who did this to Mr. Floppy. We made a promise to Beatrice, damn it! Do you want to go back and tell her and those 14 kids that the wackjob who did this is still out there? Any one of us could be next. Well, probably not Crazy Peter, the guy who lives in the old knife factory. He’s too crazy. Come on, Officer Cottontail, let’s go talk to Uncle Wiggily. I just don’t trust him.

…learn this isn’t going to end well for Lester and that maybe there really was something going on between him and that chick.

…realize that consuming pints of shaken-up Scope is a drinking problem but not the kind they deal with in AA.

…learn to love (monkeys) again. Hey, wait, is that monkey playing with a detached hand? It must be spring! I’m going to fly this kite all the way to the coffee shop. Thanks, creepy-but-initially-adorable monkey.

Comment / Posted in Monsters, Spring, Stock Photography

Exhibit 15.24

Stock Photography Review

As it’s not unusual to find details that are just slightly off in stock photography used in America–a t-shirt in German, an automobile that you eventually realize has its steering wheel on the “wrong” side–I thought I’d take a look at how other nationalities get treated. I tried to take an image off of the first page of the search results whenever possible.

Except for with the Dutch. Nothing came up for the Dutch. My apologies to everyone in Nijmegen.


Dr. Golding was on his way to a costume party at Secretary Williams’s flat in Kingston when a man stopped and asked if he might take the good doctor’s photo. The doctor was self-conscious of the costume but was flattered the outfit worked so well, especially since he had spent the best of the previous night sewing the fake dreadlocks into his hat and having his son, who was home from reading economics at Oxford, teach him how to roll the comically oversized cigar.

“Certainly, sir” he replied. “I’m in no great hurry. The Lady Williams considers it an insult for a guest to arrive on time. Oh, yes, naturally you’ll want me to pretend to puff on my cigar. May I ask why you want the picture? Ah, you’ve run off. Good day, good day!”


Okay, look. We’re all going to need to get our stories straight should Ms. Cooper come around asking about that report I did on Germany in the 6th grade. Clearly I had some facts wrong.

I mean, that climate does not look at all temperate and marine with foehn wind.


I knew they weren’t to be trusted.

Oh, wait, we’d probably be the ones spying in this (or any other) scenario. Yep, never mind. Those Swedes are all right. Except for those things they had to say about the Norwegians.

Is the part of the stock photography review where I mention Jill Biden is sort of hot? Well, it’s going to have to be. Jill Biden is sort of hot.


So maybe the Swedes were on to something because these Norwegians seem a little…off. I don’t even know what’s happening here, but if I had to guess I’d say its the most sterile murder in history.


Looks like someone surrendered to sleep. Am I right? Who’s with me?

[high five]


This is so racist.


This is so racist.

Comment / Posted in Global, Small Worlds, Stock Photography

Exhibit 14.2

In honor of the election, some political stock photography.

Congressman Wilson was having that dream again, the dream where the microphones were finally coming for him, the dream his psychiatrist said had phallic overtones, the dream he liked to tell the congressional pages about when he took them to get frappuccinos.

Who would have thought a person who ran on an authoritarian platform of creating a shadow army would be the first politician to actually live up to their promises. Still, Chancellor Paine does some good things, too.

“Sometimes, Bob, I don’t even know why they have us protecting these balloons armed with comically oversized walkee talkees.”

“It’s not our place to question it, Roger. We volunteered to supervise the prom, and supervise the prom we will.”

This photo could be used with any number of headlines, but I’m pretty sure all of them end in “Sex Scandal Exclusive!”

They laughed when Kwik Shop supervisor Ronald Vote announced his candidacy for mayor until he showed them the town ballot box on election day. What’s the worst that could happen, they said.

Well, who doesn’t want an army, they muttered anxiously, all too aware that Mayor Vote’s taxpayer-funded army consisted of 5 or 10 assault rifles he carried with him everywhere.

When he claimed a 12-year-old girl as his Secretary of War, everyone agreed this was going to a weird place.

Things didn’t get better.

Just creepier. Much, much creepier. Nobody liked Mayor Vote, but what could they do? All efforts to oust him from office ended in disaster when they urged the town to get out the Vote.

1 Comment / Posted in Politics, Stock Photography, Vote

Exhibit 12.16

Stock Photography Review

In honor of the first day of autumn, we’ll be looking at some stock photos. The fall is the favorite season of stock photography because it’s warm and colorful without being washed out, a quality that makes a background seem like everywhere without really seeming like anywhere. As always, the idea here is for us to see ourselves in these photos which means that this is what advertisers think of us:

Autumn is the time we…

…help our be-hatted, reluctant spouse shoot a deer in order to acquire the necessary sinew and intestine for their own bow.

…basket our gourds.

…get all Scrooge McDuck with our pumpkin pile.

…pretend the leaves in the park are hands holding us aloft after winning the chino sales competition at the Banana Republic.

…find ourselves doing chores in an empty, diaphanous nightmare world.

…wonder how our collection of tiny trees managed to produce a pile of Jurassically large and clearly plastic leafs.

…are surprised when our cutest babies are returned to us by conscientious garbagemen for having been inappropriately grouped with the yard waste.

…all agree on a new, less horrific history.

…take advantage of beautiful days in the park to work on our relationships with a book and grimly consider whether or not every chapter in the table of contents is going to be necessary to make this work.

…answer the previous question in the negative and then wear our tightest jeans to a different park with a copy of the most pretentious book at the Borders.

1 Comment / Posted in Autumn, Plain Babies, Stock Photography

Exhibit 10.26

So when not rambling about controversies I don’t really care about, I sometimes write about stock photography. Apparently, I’m not alone. Slate is on the case here.

Comment / Posted in Links, Stock Photography

Exhibit 10.22

Stock Photography Review

They say you can judge a society by how it treats its worst citizens, and there’s no reason to think this isn’t a good way to judge stock photography as well. Here are some examples of how stock photography handles the sick among us because they are anonymous consumers of products too.

You can’t really get much worse off than this lady, who appears to have caught all the diseases. As she uses her non-branded computer to check the Internet for possible cures to Headache/Stomachache/Pregnancy, she swallows pill after pill, no longer caring if she ends up like her cousin:

Oh, poor Tiffany. If only they hadn’t made her pills in the same color scheme as her favorite variety of Good & Plenty…

By the way, that photo is pretty much perfect if you’re trying to sell…

A) Nothing
B) A Way Out
C) Durable Brown Plastic Pill Bottles

Gerry wasn’t sure how to immortalize Grandpa until he saw a newspaper ad seeking models for stock photos…

I’d like to think that whoever took this photo was really excited about cornering the market on corpse photos.

There’s nothing really remarkable about this one except for the fact Tiny Head here was probably actually sick the day they taught fake coughing in his San Bernardino Community College acting class. It was his one chance to get an ‘A’ which would have saved him from a life spent acting, poorly, like he was actually sick.

Of course, then there are the lucky models like this kid:

Somehow he lucked into his own series of stock photos taking place in a dystopian future where tracking done by forehead barcodes has replaced traditional parenting.

That’s like the Star Wars of the stock photography world.

My god, these two look horrible. What happened to them?

Ah, of course.

1 Comment / Posted in Future, Sick, Stock Photography

Exhibit 10.12

Today in Misguided Stock Photography

So Microsoft has little tips in the corner on the first screen you see after logging into Hotmail. Fine. Whatever. Mostly they are silly but logical constructions that are able to tie an image in with the text to create understanding on the part of the user.

Like so:

Makes sense, right? We are supposed to believe that this benevolent, Jetsons-esque robot is the glue behind their complicated multi-hundred-million-user email system. Fine. As this is more or less what I believed anyway, I don’t have any problems here.

Then there is this one:

Now this is a bit of a stretch. I suppose we are to see ourselves as the ants in this equation and that our contacts are really just fellow ants “united” with us. Fine. As I more or less use my account to plan fruit heists, I can follow along with this easy enough.

But I have no idea what the connection is behind this stock photo and the message here:

Am I the dog? Is the dog trying to leave me a message? What does the headset have to do with email? And where did he get that headset anyway?

The message here really seems to be: Hotmail, a Lynch-ian world of cruel absurity and ritualized dehumanization, is now easier than ever.

2 Comments / Posted in Heists, Methodology, Stock Photography

Exhibit 9.13

Stock Photography Review

In honor of local primary election day–America’s favorite non-holiday!–I figured it was time for a brief stock photography review of patriotic images.

Linking your company, self, or jazz fusion band to blind patriotic rage is one of the safest ways to reach customers while assuring you won’t attract the anger of Bill O’Reilly. There are a lot of different angles you can go with though to ensure you’re attracting the right demographic of Americans.


Yep, that’s pretty much what we look like. I think I even own that haircut.

Gun Toting

This photo really captures the toting.

It’s perfect if your business is a private security company or a funeral home. See, this guy–let’s say he’s a bit of a maverick but likes to dress casual–will do anything to protect that mournful, sun-drenched symbol of glory behind him. Why? Hard to say, though presumably he’s vehemently against Puerto Rican statehood. Anyone wanting to add a 51st star is going to need an even bigger gun (and a needle, thread, and cloth star).

The best thing about this photo is that if you Photoshop out the uzi it’s pretty much a Ralph Lauren ad.

Post Traumatic

A quickly growing market!

The fact that there is a series of stock photos for this is horribly depressing. Use only if your company sells shame and horror.

Let’s go out on a positive note with a non-disillusioned soldier in a poorly conceived uniform:

Ah, there we go.

I don’t know what I like more, that this photographer’s idea of a uniform consisted of a khaki shirt fully buttoned or that this might actually be what three-star generals wear on the weekend.

Fake uniform or not, the guy with the uzi is going to be pissed when he finds out this joker stole his flag while he was out buying white t-shirts at the GAP.


Comment / Posted in America, Patches, Stock Photography

Exhibit 8.7

Stock Photography Review

A poorly chosen stock photo can give the impression of incompetence instead of the shallow, faceless reassurance you want to evoke in the viewer. As most stock photographers and models are unfamiliar with the scenarios they are supposed to play out–and, it seems, photography and modelling generally–it’s easy for errors (and worse) to creep their way into the pictures.

These “errors” tells us a great deal about the state of our nation and the consequences of our ineptitude.

For example, this doctor seems bemused at the fact that he’s repeatedly missed this woman’s hand cancer. As they stand slack-jawed, pondering her impending death, he offers no reassurances or hugs, only amazement at the fact that she not only has two right hands, but that one of those hands has rapidly metastasizing tumor which has extended like a sixth finger beyond the hand’s traditional boundaries.

She, on the other hand, always knew about the hand cancer–it was why she was referred to him–but just couldn’t bear to hurt his feelings by asking about it after their second appointment together. Now she’s just trying to peer past the sight of her undoing to see if there is a ring on his finger because there isn’t one on either of her two right hands.

Or maybe I’m just reading into it. Let’s look at this guy:

This is clearly a commentary on America’s nuclear vulnerability. This guy risked everything just to take his picture next to Reactor 7, his favorite. When he couldn’t get the shot he wanted with his hazard suit on, he shed it but kept his hard hat because he knows nothing about Reactor 7 except that he loves it so.

What may appear to be a “flavor savor” is actually the cancer spreading stylishly from his chin. This is exactly what happened to Howie Mandel.

Still, our science can save them:

They are either curing these people’s cancer or making them some rock candy so they don’t feel so bad about it. Based on the color, I’m betting rock candy.

And then there are these people who don’t even know they are standing right next to each other…or that they’re in love. This picture says sad things about the state of industry in our new service-oriented economy but it says great things about our romantic comedy industry. I see this one as Career Opportunities meets Disclosure. We’ll laugh, we’ll love, we’ll recession.

Tom sold all of his tools to buy that teal toolbox, but it didn’t matter, not even when they laughed, not even when Cindy left.

The worst part about the national malaise these photos illustrate is that even a sure-to-be-booming industry like crime is immune:

Look how sad and befuddled that poor, hooded robber is by the simple lock system of this Taurus. But a purse from Target! But a circa 2000 Nokia!

I bet he’ll stand there looking at it all day until he has to go home to his family who wait hungry for food and smack. It’s almost too sad for words. Almost.

At least the wage workers will get a holiday party at work:

No, no, that’s not right, that’s not right at all!

(I spent the better part of an hour trying to come up with a legitimate reason for that photo to exist. I’ve got nothing).

2 Comments / Posted in Decay, No good, Stock Photography

Exhibit 7.7

Stock Photography Review

One of the most common ways to utilize stock photography is as a stand in for a company’s sickly, jaundiced employees. While low wages, poor working conditions, and fluorescent lights might make already unattractive employees appear malnourished and unhelpful, the timely use of a stock photo can let the public think a company’s workers are clean, moderately attractive people versed in the use of a floral kerchief:

Now that’s an employee you expect to answer the phone at your cable company. She may not have a computer, but she has a series of indistinguishable white binders full of answers. She hasn’t yet mastered watch-to-kerchief coordination, she does have a pleasantly theatrical way of posing while talking.

The important thing is to find a photo that screams competence when you put a picture on your contact page.

Headsets: Check.
Diversity: Check.
Business formal attire: Check.

Oh, so close. On the plus side, the lady on the left looks like she’s terrified of having to answer any questions anyway. Somebody should get her some helpful white binders.

As this person clearly has no idea how to hook up a computer, it’s probably best to avoid this photo. While the mouse and cpu-less keyboard with its monitor set up perpendicular to the keyboard may look high-tech, it’s probably not going to lead to effective, accurate answers.

Rather than who will be answering, stock photography can also be used to portray those who will be calling. The picture you choose will say a lot about your company.

This one says: We’re perverts.

This one says: We’re perverts.

Comment / Posted in Floral, Kerchiefs, Stock Photography

Exhibit 6.11

Stock Photography Review

Let’s look at some pieces that illustrate the ways in which stock photography grapples with accurately recreating human experience. In these first examples, the photo fails to accurately recreate the experience of the activity pictured leading to confusion, anger, and declined credit card offers.


It’s clear that this family of multi-ethnic aliens is unfamiliar with the fundamentals of human food consumption. Whatever unsuspecting family they are luring to the kitchen on their mothership will be too polite to say anything about the pepper and onion stew they are being served. Then it will be too late.


You should know that this is how advertisers think you talk on the phone. They think this because this is how they talk on the phone, constantly opened-mouth at the hilarity coming through the earpiece while they stand uncomfortably close to their colleagues in an urban setting. If ever saw people doing this on the street, I’d call the police.

Sexual Harassment

Not even close.

On the otherhand, stock photography is exceptionally valuable for its ability to capture human emotions despite its gross inaccuracy when capturing human actions.

Jealousy/Suspicion of Infidelity

Look at how well they captured that guy’s look of desperation/lust while checking his email. He wants his wife to know, and she’s through caring as long as she gets their hyper-modern steel table in the divorce.

Unrequited Love
Nailed it again. Dead on.

Comment / Posted in Cheating to Do, Stock Photography, Towels

Exhibit 3.27

Stock Photography Review

This all college edition of the stock photography review has culled its photos from some of America’s finest online educational institutions, for-profit universities, and community colleges.

From the American Association of Community Colleges:

Ah, yes, the formal top-hat procession at the old community college. I took a class at community college one summer and though the educational experience was top notch, I felt cheated when I only got half of what I paid for my cape back at the end of the semester.

Another from the community college website:

Having ditched their cummerbunds, Ted and Derek talk strategy for that night’s sneering contest/date rape.

From Nelnet:

The message here: That’s a pretty big book. You’ll need a pretty big loan to pay for it. Oh, and people in college wear ugly shirts. This hyper color shirt is actually reacting to this student’s growing confusion over his gender identity. Why, oh, why did he have to buy that giant Judith Butler reader?

From ITT Tech:

On the website, this photo is actually a button for those who have questions. In this particular case, this woman has questions about the bill for her bachelorette party. Specifically, she requested a green sweater.

From ETS’s GRE website:

This is what a GRE Test Taker looks like. He seems pretty happy.

From Hamilton College Iowa:

Sometimes these pictures make me sad. I miss nothing more than gathering on the hill with my multi-cultural group of friends, sitting in a square, stiffening my back, and preparing for a long day of very performative reading. It’s all I can do not to call that representative right now.

My favorite part of this photo: In an apparent effort not to offend even the weather, each person seems dressed for a different season.

1 Comment / Posted in Hats, Stock Photography, Sweaters

Exhibit 3.11

Stock Photography Review

Because why not. It’s not as if anyone does or should read this.

Anyway, this piece is from here (in case you don’t look, it’s a bank’s page for online banking) and represents one of my favorite stock photography errors: the out-of-date photo. Usually this happens because A) Someone’s not paying attention and uses a photo with a man wearing a Where’s the beef? t-shirt or B) Someone is paying attention but only to the bottom line and therefore doesn’t want to pay for a new photo where the models don’t have polio.

In this case, the bank clearly had put all of their resources into short-wave radio banking and so found themselves ill-prepared for rise of computers and the impact the internet would have on their interactions with customers. After auctioning off their frequency, the bank had raised enough funds to purchase exactly one photo with a computer and has stuck with it since 1994.

My favorite part is the daughter’s look of utter confusion at what is being presented to her and the mother’s (lover’s?) look of quiet superiority as her daughter/lover struggles to navigate her way to the Benneton’s website.
Best guesses on what these two are Lycosing:
  • Different World Bonet Cosby Cancelled?
  • Baggy denim shirts
  • Dole/Kemp position NAFTA
  • Perm chatroom
  • Mavis Beacon

Okay, I just put that last search in for all of the sweet Mavis Beacon traffic it will draw.

There are some other great photos on that First National Bank website:

This one is just creepy. I know it’s supposed to be a sweet scene between a grandfather and his grandson, but if I had to look at this guy’s hairy thighs every time I wanted to see if my student loan payment posted, I’d be pretty bummed. Although, since I’ve been typing this, I’ve begun to find it strangely hypnotizing. Better move on.

This is what they have on their loans page which is good as it can’t go out of date, but bad in the sense that it basically sends the message that you have to weigh your future if you accept their tantalizing pile of singles. Good god, there must be $100 there. And the Dolphins are getting points this week. But my dying kid… It is good that they refrained from showing the pound of flesh on the other side of the scale.

This is the picture on the telephone banking page and again it’s charmingly anachronistic. A corded phone? Ha! Who is this lady, Murphy Brown? Seriously, I could keep going on like this forever. This does little to make phone banking seem appealing, of course, since the woman looks like someone just told her David Caruso gets naked in Jade. Okay, I’ll stop.

Maybe the bank is relying on us knowing that she really is just calling a friend for the correct Baby Stew recipe.

3 Comments / Posted in Mavises, Mavisi, Stock Photography

Exhibit 2.8

Stock Photography Review

First, go here. (Ed note: see update). Because we’re going to be talking about this photo:

Ah, Reuters (which, until I read Tony Kushner’s directions in Homebody/Kabul, I always pronounced Root-ers. I love that this was a big enough problem that it was one of two pronunciations he felt the need to point out [ed note: the other was Wodehouse]). Apparently when this story about reproduction slid across the editor’s desk the conversation was:

Editor: Great. Do we have any pictures?
Reporter: Of what?
Editor: The production of these so-called “kids.”
Reporter: You mean, the sex?
Editor: Yes, get me some ‘the sex!’
Reporter: We can’t publish that, sir.
Editor: Well, get me something that suggests as much in the most obvious way possible.

Hence a small child and rockets. Look at the father’s slack-jawed awe at the sight of these explosive (and in no way suggestive) shafts. And the child who despite being identified as a boy is wearing a very effeminate pair of pink pants. Geez, I wonder if Dad picked those out…

Why not have another fake conversation?

Man with son on shoulders: So this picture isn’t going to be used in any kind of sexually suggestive way, right?
Photographer: Nope, we’re just going to use it for today’s event.
Man: Good. I’d hate for anything to ruin our day at this year’s Phallus Expo.

Then the photo wasn’t used and here it is as a file photo the first time someone needed to fill space in a story about procreation. This isn’t stock photography per se. (In fact, it works in the exact opposite way of stock photography on the viewer, leading to enforced, ill-fitting specificity while stock photography is about creating unnatural anonymity). The idea of using people as furniture is the same, however, so I think it counts.

UPDATE: They changed the photo! So I posted this and went to get some pepper coffee before deciding I should check the link, and they’d changed it to two people’s mouths. Rest assured, this was the photo this morning.

Comment / Posted in Phaydavongs, Puns, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.18

Stock Photography Review


The headline that accompanies this piece says “ARE YOU A GOOD CO-WORKER?” As I found this while at work, it’s unclear if I’m even a good worker so I didn’t have the heart to actually take the quiz or whatever that would let me know.

But what’s fascinating about this piece–and stock photography in general–is the chameleon-like nature of these images. Whatever photographer snapped this shot had no idea what the headline was going to be, but s/he knew that A) Most stock photography uses women, B) Most stock photography is used by companies targeting middle-class salaried workers, and C) Due to the depth of the composition, this photo would likely be used online or in mail (not on, say, a billboard). That’s it. However this photo gets used from then on is entirely up to the photographer’s arrangement with the image provider and the company that purchases it.

Some other possible headlines that could go with this photo:

  • Searching for a better snack? Try a Take Five.
  • Constantly looking for a bathroom? Take Holdaprone.
  • The University of Onlineville is the answer to your career worries.
  • Is everything really better on the other side of the cubicle?
  • Find out if you made the right career move.
  • Our employees are worried about what’s best for you.

And on and on.

Comment / Posted in Holdaprone, Miss Thang, Stock Photography

Exhibit 1.4

Stock Photography Review


This compelling, though not particularly bold, entry comes courtesy of the banking industry which is to stock photography what the New Yorker is to line drawings, producing nearly 85% of the world’s output. It’s as if long ago some destined-to-be retail banking whiz snuck into his father’s office, jimmied open the tantalizingly locked desk drawer, discovered a treasure of average looking people smiling back at him, and thought, “This must be sex.”

Well, it’s not, but that didn’t stop whoever this was from plastering these pictures over every brochure, direct mailer, and website the banking industry produces. Which is good because it keeps my Louvre of Bland here running, but bad because with bank branches continuing to open at an alarm rate, we’ll only be seeing more of it in the future.

This particular piece deftly manages the hard dichotomy of good stock photography: universality and anonymity. Notice the age of the woman–which can best be described as menopausal–falls between any easy classification, landing somewhere between mother and grandmother on the Child-Daughter-Young Independent Woman-Mother-Grandmother-Ruth Bader Ginsburg scale of female age. Is this woman Mom? Grandma? Me? It’s the question your mind asks subconsciously, and the piece works because the answer is, of course, all of them. Ergo universality. The anonymity–that difficult quality that allows us not just to recognize the woman but to become her–is subtle. The blurred background of the piece nicely accomplishes a bit of abstract impressionism, letting us paint our own canvas behind her. Is that blob a sky scraper or a silo, a Wal-Mart or a yoga studio? It’s the most interesting choice the artist made simply because most stock photography either plays in loose space (parks, fields, etc.) or tight space (kitchens, board rooms, etc.), if not eliminating the illusion of space all together by disembodying a head and painting color over the background. These Max Headroom like personae seem bizarrely natural on first glance and bizarrely unnatural on second. That line is skirted nicely here. Everything looks fairly standard until an observer notices this woman lives in a Morisot painting.

The other thing to note is the nice use of color, with the blue of the shirt fading into the bank’s signature dark blue at the base with both the color of the shirt and the bar stopping at approximately the same place on the canvas. This picture was almost certainly not taken specifically for this client, so to be able to find such an easy match is fortuitous. Clothes ruin more stock photography than they help–hence disembodied heads again–and it isn’t often to find the right clothes, with the right background, with the right face.

Speaking of, the woman’s look strikes the right note of checking account satisfaction but cannot produce the softness the proposition seems to want. She looks like she knows a secret, an undesirable in the small-print world of banking.

Secrets this woman may know:

  • What time Murphy Brown reruns are on
  • Who farted
  • The ending of the movie Phenomenon (Ed. note: He dies)
  • What you do when alone at night
  • Which margarine really is right for her lifestyle
  • When the muffins are done

Still, she is a confident, successful-woman who should be proud to appear in this effective if not a little middling work.

Comment / Posted in Berthe, Menopausal, Stock Photography