By Flip Ptarmigan
It must be difficult to be a stock photo model. It’s a lot of pressure to embody emotions like “surprise,” “disgust,” and “woman in backpack” on command, and that’s not even getting into the pay. What’s even worse is when you’re just getting settled in for a long shoot, and one of your fellow models just keels over. It’s hard to know what you would do in this situation. For every stock photo model who says “we absolutely cannot continue this Men Frying Eggs shoot until we get another living man,” there are at least eight or nine who say, “sure! Let’s give this Men Frying Eggs thing a shot. I’m sure nobody will notice.” And until right now, nobody did.
Here are a couple stock photos where I’ve recently noticed that one of the models died just before the picture was taken, and the others are trying to pretend everything’s going according to plan.
First, there’s the classic “businessmen around a long table” photo, which has been used on countless billboards and PowerPoints since its capture. Despite its wide reach, nobody has ever commented on the fact that the third man on the left is no longer with us. Many observers might have been fooled by the fact that he seems to be talking to the other businessmen, but when you look closer, you can see that the model next to him is blatantly moving his jaw with one hand.
Another photo like this is the one that’s probably supposed to be a couple having an argument. It’s a little hard to tell, because the woman has been propped against some kitchen cabinets and isn’t moving, but the man seems to be attempting it. In fact, he’s probably arguing extra hard to make up for her lackluster response, but once you consider that she might have died unexpectedly a few minutes before the photo was taken, it becomes all you can see.
There are several stock photos of funerals and crime scenes. It’s a little harder to figure out who’s alive and who’s dead in these. There’s one where a guy in a police costume is lying facedown on the pavement, and the guy next to him is also lying facedown on the pavement, but he has one eye cracked open and a look on his face like this wasn’t part of the plan and he isn’t sure how to proceed. We’ve all been there, man!
There’s one stock photo of a unicycle marathon that is a lot of fun and that I used to enjoy looking at 2-3 times a day. Recently, though, I took a closer look and realized that at least five of the racers must have moved on before it was taken. This is most of the people in the picture, and you can tell that the ones left are having a hard time enjoying their pretend unicycle race. A couple of spare photographers are crouched behind the unicycles of the recently-deceased models and are holding their feet on the pedals, but it takes some of the whimsy out of the scene once you notice them.
Again, definitely not every stock photo has a fully-dead model in it and a few others who are trying to pretend that nothing happened. But once you know where to look, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. Regardless of your personal feelings on this issue, it’s good to be aware of these things when you’re making your presentations, memes, and fun email signatures. It can definitely change the mood of an image once you figure out that not all of the models involved are still alive, and the vibe gets weirder when the other models are clearly just trying to awkwardly push through. There are still plenty of stock images out there, and I wish you all the best in finding them.