Through my research into Cursed Images earlier this year, I came across the Twitter account Dark Stock Photos. The account, which has over 150,000 followers, pulls some of the grimmer shots from sites like Getty, iStockphoto, and Shutterstock, re-contextualizing them into something far more bizarre than intended: Crying children with pistols are collected alongside photos of kidnapping, theft, suicide, all filtered through the distinct visual language of the stock photo.
Like porn, stock photos follow the rule that if you can think of something, you can almost certainly find a stock photo depicting it- there are some really bizarre and dark ones out there. While popular on Reddit and Tumblr for years, they’ve had a recent resurgence on a larger scale through the witter account @DarkStockPhotos. “They’re so on the nose”, Andy Kelly, the UK journalist who started @DarkStockPhotos- https://twitter.com/darkstockphotos?lang=en, told BuzzFeed News of his inspiration. “It’s like, how do we illustrate seasonal depression? Let’s put a guy in front of a Christmas tree with a gun”.
“I just think of the worst stuff possible,” Kelly said. “It’s amazing how thorough these sites are with having photos for every imaginable combination of things.” I’ve always wondered, who actually takes these bizzare images, and what inspires such odd photos? BuzzFeed talked to a few of the masterminds behind some of the strangest, most famous stock photos and asked: “”Why does that stock photo even exist?”.
These pictures of a crying young boy holding a gun went viral after they were posted to Shuttershock. The Russian stock photographer behind the images, Sergey Komisar, took these photos of his son three years ago. But he didn’t expect people to find them so funny. BuzzFeed News contacted him, he had no idea that the images become some of the most recognizable stock images online. The photos have been downloaded more than 20 times on Shutter stock, he estimated. What I like about this is the fact the backstory is a lot less dark than you’d expect for photos of an armed, weeping toddler.
Komisar told BuzzFeed News the photos were taken when, Roman, his then 3-year old son, had gotten cranky at the end of a photoshoot. While holding his toy gun he started to cry. “It was a sweet moment, and one I didn’t want to miss. So I asked him to pose as he was,”
Shutter-stock is a leading stock photo company, the goal is to make sure there’s a broad range of content fulfilling every possible costumer need- no matter how weird, according to the Shutter-stock website. Once the stock photos are uploaded to the sites, they’re available for any and all customer use. Customers buy the photos through the site, and photographers rarely learn what their photos end up being used for. The rise of stock photos as memes has led to a lot of these photos being stolen through screenshotting and circulated widely.
What I enjoy is that “meme” accounts constitute a genre of their own. Cursed images features photographs with nothing in common, besides the sensibility they’re gathered under, and elicit a strong feeling of unwanted intimacy with either the subject or the person taking the picture; a staircase full of Furbys; a person in an Elmo costume waving from a bed with a retirement-home aesthetic.
Fern O’ Carolan