You know those photos of happy strangers that come in picture frames that you end up replacing with happy pictures of your family and friends? Those happy strangers are called “stock models,” they are the people that pose for stock photos, and stock photos are EVERYWHERE. They’re photos that websites and publications license so they don’t have to go to the trouble of doing a shoot themselves.
So what’s it like to be a model whose goal is anonymity instead of superstardom? What’s it like to be the everywoman of corporate brochures and weight loss advertisements?
Lucky Magazine recently interviewed one of these stock models, 25 year-old Faiven Feshazion, who submits herself for stock photography the same way she submits herself for the commercial acting she also seeks out.
“…if you fit the description, you just submit yourself because it’s easy money and you really don’t do anything. It’s just, ‘Business attire. Meet in Brooklyn at 9 a.m. We’ll have food there. Let’s do this!’”
The thing is, there’s a catch. There’s ALWAYS a catch when you hear the phrase “easy money” pop up in a job description. As a stock model, you have absolutely no control re: where a photo pops up. They can be used for almost anything and you basically have to be cool with it. Lucky gives us a few examples:
“Take Samantha Ovens, the unsuspecting model whose photo appeared above a column in The Guardian under the headline ‘I Fantasize About Group Sex With Old, Obese Men,‘ or the Reddit user whose 14-year-old likeness was gruesomely ‘unzipped’ in a PSA warning against online predators.””
If you’re a stock model, this is, according to many, just a part of the job you have to accept.
“It’s nothing—like 200 bucks for a couple hours. And you have no rights in perpetuity. So that’s how that works,” Feshazion explains.
Stock models have to find a way to make peace with this fact of their professional life. Tony Northrup, a stock model who gained some notoriety when his stock photos went into heavy circulation on Velveeta’s Facebook page explained to Digiday:
“The fun part is that you don’t know if anybody is going to even use your pictures. You see them sell, but they never pop up anywhere. Maybe they’re buried on page 15 of a newspaper, or they’re on some billboard somewhere. But then sometimes you do stumble across it. If you have a sense of humor about it, it’s hilarious.”
Northrup did admit that “I’ve found my images popping up in a few racist uses, some sort of racist article that happened to use a photo of me,” which he objected to, but he also allows that these situations are “..pretty rare.”
Former stock model Victoria Bond has her own qualms with the job. In a piece she penned for xoJane entitled “My Former Life As A Stock Photography Model Haunts Me Because I Am Now Depressed And Childless,” Bond does talk about the downsides of having little control over where stock photos end up (in her essay, she describes discovering that she had become the face of a laxative coupon) Yet, according to her, the worst part of the job was seeing her happily married mom stock-photo self so little resemble the person she was in real life:
“The image of me in Walmart, content and confident, with my fake husband and my fake daughters taunts the restless woman who struggles with depression and self-esteem, whom I actually am. That’s part of what gets under my skin about the stock photos. My image is used to sell values that alienate me and a lot of other women.”
So now, whenever you see a stock model cheerfully eating a yogurt, confidently conducting a pretend business meeting, or happily posing with her fake family, you’ll know that, whereas these photos are simple and straightforward, the truth behind them is WAY more complicated.
(Image via Shutterstock)