Nothing beats a good laugh over a truly ridiculous photo. You know the ones. Family portraits gone horribly awry. An epic photo bomb. Those photos you never, ever want tagged of yourself on Facebook. They're those happy mistakes that have enlivened and shaped viral Internet culture (and that make passing time in your cubicle a hell of a lot more enjoyable).
Mark Hauge, a graphic designer from Chicago-land, Illinois, is the man behind AwkwardStockPhotos.com, a photo blog started in January 2010 that delivers a daily dose of WTF gems handpicked from various stock photography sites around the world. We caught up with Mark to chat about the blog, what truly defines an awkward stock photograph, and why there's always some girl in a bikini who pops up no matter what you're trying to research on the Internet.
Below is our interview and Mark's picks for his top ten awkward stock photographs of all time (including an Evil Conan O'Brien sabotaging Jay Leno's favorite ride with a maniacal, yet gentle, placement of a banana into the exhaust pipe). Enjoy. And try not to spit out your coffee in front of your boss.
10. This definitely helps the argument that red heads enjoy the company of post-office party shenanigans with people in parrot costumes.
9. Because we all know that dog owners look like their dogs.
8. Who wants baby nuggets?
7. The exact opposite of an appropriate photo for a cereal ad.
6. Evil Conan O'Brien sabotaging Jay Leno's favorite ride with a maniacal, yet gentle, placement of a banana into the exhaust pipe.
5. I hope she's pregnant with another doll?
4. He probably blocked it with his face. Oh well.
3. This decade's Mona Lisa. With a rat beard.
2. Another example of an innocent photo illustrating "everybody poops" ruined by a sombrero.
1. I'm no stranger to dressing up and doing mirror yoga with my friends in the forest but what's with the motorcycle helmets?
L.A. Weekly: Funny photos are one thing but when they're stock photos it adds a whole new level of ridiculousness, in that the assumption is people would want to buy them and use them for their business or advertising or whatnot.
Mark Hauge: Yeah. I've been a graphic designer since 2006 and it was always just something I did with coworkers and friends ... you've got to do photo research for something and you always come across [awkward photos]. If you're looking at light houses, you'll come across one of a girl in a bikini next to a light house. That's not necessarily that awkward but that's how it got started. I just noticed there's always a girl in a bikini if you're searching for anything. [Laughs] So then, besides just emailing them to my friends, I started putting them on my Facebook and people thought they were funny and someone suggested I make a blog. I have a friend who is really into Tumblr and he set it up for me and I went at it posting pictures. Somehow it got tweeted by a friend's boss and Boing Boing got ahold of it and it blew up after that.
L.A. Weekly: Have you run into any legal issues collecting stock photos?
Mark Hauge: There have been some legal issues but it's this weird gray area because I don't have ads on my site. I'm against it considering it's not really my stuff; it's stock photo company stuff. So I don't have ads and I wrote a post on the site about ASP to put it out there that I'm never gonna have ads, I'm not going to try and make money off it, [laughs] just so everyone can be happy and look at these funny photos. But the whole gray area of what's legal and what's not ... can you take an image from someone else's site which has a watermark on it and post it on Tumblr which is a free platform? I don't know. There have been some comments come through from photographers, like one photographer that noticed that his photo had made it on my site and he said he was honored.
L.A. Weekly: What's the winning combo of ingredients for a truly awkward stock photograph?
Mark Hauge: My criteria for selecting an awkward stock photo is basically, could this be used in the most generic corporate setting or a website or promotional material? I recently posted some photos that are really blurry and I don't know if most people would find that awkward but to me it's like, I'm never going to use this photo, which makes it an awkward stock photo. But then there's the one of the young boy in a dress standing in front of a pink and white target shooting a squirt gun, and there's no way that could ever be used for anything. I guess there's a fine line but not really [laughs]. I'm interested in photos that are really just not possible to use. But I really do appreciate these photos for just what they are; they're so weird and there's no point to them except for what they are. They could almost be seen as artwork. I could see some of them being in an art gallery. They just exist for themselves. It's sad and it's happy at the same time.
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