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Culture

Stock Images from the Internet are Weird

They make you feel like the only sane person living.

by Oscar Rickett
23 March 2012, 8:00am

I love internet stock images. They represent a paint-by-numbers version of the real world that aims to satisfy as many people as possible, but end up providing a baffling and alienating insight into categories of human that only exist in the minds of advertising sociopaths. What's not to love?

Look at stock images and you will know how truly alone you are. You will come face-to-face with the fact that your idea of a “fat cat” is entirely at odds with the most popular representation of a fat cat. You think, “guy in a suit smoking a cigar”, the world thinks “Garfield”. To illustrate my point, here are the highest ranked stock images relating to a selection of rigorously chosen subject fields:


COOL GUY

Apparently being a cool guy is now all about being the clean cut grandson of Gok Wan. He looks like the kind of vaguely emo guy even emo kids would bully. The entire first page of cool guy stock images is absurdly clean cut. I mean, haven’t these guys heard of Cap’n Jack Sparrow and rocking out? Sunglasses feature heavily, of course, but where’s the stubble? Where’s the cheap booze? Where have all the cowboys gone?


FAT GUY

I didn’t realise I’d accidentally searched for “intense, red haired guy who wants to beat me up”. His pronounced belly definitely marks him out as some brand of fat guy but he’s not exactly the jolly, roly-poly Father Christmas chap I had in mind. When it comes to fatness, the world is a scarier place than I’d imagined.


PUNK

You’d think it’d be impossible to cram all the punk stereotypes into one image but this manages it. In your face, society! I'm a sexual young woman; HEAR ME ROAR!


GAY GUYS

This what being gay is all about: eschewing society’s conventions by undoing your top button and pulling your tie down. Looking sensitively at another man because you understand that he has feelings. Being clean cut. (Everyone in the world of stock images is clean cut. Except for those punks.)


LESBIANS

It’s kind of depressing how much Lesbian stock photography is geared towards slavering straight men. It’s also fucking stupid because what gay girl porn enthusiast is going to head to stock images to get his kicks? Anyhow, these two have a good “hey, you know going out in Copenhagen is real fun”, Danish tourist board advert feel to them.


LONELY OLD MAN

The sea is so large but I am so small. Is that a friend out there? No, it’s a buoy. How could it be a friend? I don’t have any friends. I don’t even own a shirt. The sand is getting cold. Man, I’m really contemplating things.


PEOPLE IN DEBT

If any photo sums up our times more than a picture of students rioting while a banker smokes money in the background, it's this one of a despondent woman, her dreams buried beneath a pile of debt. The debt is symbolised by all the pieces of paper, which are presumably “I owe yous”. The despondence is symbolised by the doleful look on her face. Hello, 2012.


INDIE GUY

Yeah, I know, I wasn’t expecting to see Guy Ritchie either but apparently he still considers himself an “indie filmmaker”. He says this in almost every interview he does and because of that, he finds himself flying high in Google’s “Indie guy” stock images ranking. Well done Guy, your post-Sherlock revival continues. You’re indier than Jim Jarmusch and every single member of The Rakes.


CRAZY PEOPLE

White guys freaking out in an office… one of them already actually wearing a straitjacket, the other one wearing a symbolic straitjacket aka a bloody suit!!!


CATS

Well, this photo blew my mind. Duality of meaning is something that Google pays attention to. Cats? Doing the stock market?! Well, they know just as much as those bloody hacks that brought our economy crashing down around us! Really gives you paws for thought!!! Etc.

Follow Oscar on Twitter: @oscarrickettnow

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