Having your picture taken might seem like one of the most innocent things in the world.
But what happens when those pictures end up in places you hadn’t even imagined — such as alongside an article declaring how you’re turned on by orgies with fat, old men or holding a placard saying you’re a sex offender?
Becoming the poster boys and girls for such causes is a far cry from where those posing for inoffensive stock images — used in newspapers, magazines and ads when no suitable pics are available — believe they’ll end up.
This week, a Twitter thread went viral after stock models shared their accounts of the hilarious and surprising campaigns they had been linked to, following @marleybennett joke that he looked like the model on a tobacco warning label.
Here, they share their faces’ bizarre final destinations.
My innocent dog selfie ended up on a bestiality article
First to respond was Yair Kivaiko who was surprised to find his photo on an article about bestiality last year after uploading the image to a stock photo site.
The 36-year-old product manager said: “It was just a photo I’d taken for fun with my parents’ dogs in their backyard about four or five years ago and I decided to sell it via an app online to make some extra cash.”
“I was mortified when I saw it on an article about bestiality.”
“It took me a really long time to tell my friends and family what had happened. I would never want to be recognized as ‘that guy’ by people that had read the article.”
But despite the questionable associations, Yair doesn’t regret selling the photo.
“I love the picture and enjoy seeing it from time-to-time on other ads,” he says.
“I could have done without the bestiality story, but it was a minor website and luckily the article is no longer available online so there’s no real harm done. I wasn’t sure how to react at first, but today I look at it as a funny turn of events and laugh about it.”
I was the poster boy for a severe penis problem in Venezuela
Niccolò Massariello, a Spanish writer for Vice, revealed how his stock photos ended up on ads for booze, milk, the Catholic Church and even paraphimosis — a horrifying penis condition in which the foreskin gets trapped behind the tip of the penis.
Following a tricky breakup, Massariello embarked on an impulsive photoshoot with a friend to try and take his mind off stuff and signed away his rights to the images without realizing the potential repercussions.
He discovered his images had been sold months later when he saw his face on an article about terrorists on a Catholic website.
“That in itself wasn’t so bad, but it was then that I realized I had no control over what might happen to my face,” he told Vice.
In the following months, Massariello’s face was used to promote anything and everything, from gluten-free drinks and Columbian spirits to articles on vindictive exes and “jerks” at work.
Things then went from bad to worse, with Massariello finding his increasingly popular face on the cover of a book about monsters, an advert for shaving and finally, on a national campaign about a very serious penis problem in Venezuela.
“As I was getting up one morning a friend from Venezuela asked me on Whatsapp if I had — or had ever had — paraphimosis, a very serious penis issue,” he explained.
“I told my friend that I might have had some issues down there in the past, but that I don’t remember it being called that.”
Massariello friend then informed him that he was “the poster boy for paraphimosis in Venezuela.”
“I know I can’t really complain — I was fully conscious when I had those pictures taken and I actively signed away the rights to my face,” he says.
“Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t rue the day I posed for those pictures. Briefly feeling a little better about myself that day does not compare to the fact I have no idea where my face will show up next.”
I was the women who loved sex with fat, ugly old men
Like many others in her situation, Samantha Ovens’ stock image modeling shots — which were originally taken for a campaign on cold and flu medication — were used for something she could never have imagined.
Ovens, who is gay, was out with her friends when she was first alerted to the fact that her face had been used on an article, titled: “I fantasize about group sex with old, obese men,” on the Guardian’s anonymous sex column.
The piece, written in first person, explained how the author, a 31-year-old woman, struggled with fantasies about being “passed around” by fat, ugly old men.
“The thing that really turns me on is the idea of having to lift their stomachs and search for their penises, which are always difficult to find and a bit on the soft side,” is just one of the graphic lines in the first paragraph which Samantha’s image was next to.
Luckily, the successful model, who usually specializes in portraying mums on shoot, found the whole thing hilarious.
“I was with my partner’s mum [when I first saw it],” Samantha told the Guardian later. “I screeched with laughter and said: ‘Oh. You have to see this.’
“How can you take it seriously? There are bigger things in this life to get concerned about.”
The family fronting the anti-gay marriage campaign
In a much more serious case, a British family’s image was used on a poster campaign by an Irish group opposing gay marriage ahead of the 2015 referendum — a campaign with which they strongly disagreed.
In an anonymous interview with the BBC, the family said they were given a free photo shoot in exchange for allowing the photographer to sell the images.
“The photo was not stolen from us… we have no claim over (or rights to) the picture and we do not claim otherwise,” the family said.
“We just wanted publicly to say that we disagreed with the “No” campaign and were unhappy about their use of our image, but we acknowledge that they’re allowed to do so.”
Other examples of awkwardly placed stock images include Simon Naylor’s face on an article about Viagra which was pointed out to him in his local pub.
“Thought nothing of signing over a few headshots for use as stock images, until my local pub landlord spotted me in Take A Break,” he tweeted.
But we don’t think it’s quite as bad as this poor girl’s holiday snap being used as an advert for colonic procedures.
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