Megan Garber once wrote in The Atlantic that the premise of stock photos is that they “anticipate people’s needs before they become needs in the first place.” If that is the case, then I eagerly await the day when I will need a picture of a woman stabbing her date with a butter knife as he casually asks for the check.
Welcome to Dark Stock Photos, a brilliant Twitter account created by journalist Andy Kelly. Through it, Kelly has composed a litany of outrageous, absurd, sad, and confounding photos — like a bird’s-eye view of a man slamming his fist on a table amid the word “DEATH” spelled out in wooden letters, or a picture of a naked guy in a Santa hat pinching his own nipples, or a shot of a woman snipping off the head of a Barbie doll with scissors. These are, unbelievably, real stock photos. They’re joined by many whose scenarios are readily decipherable — an injured worker, a child with a gun, teens drunk driving, a home intruder. But what unites all of the photos, aside from being dark, is their deeply bizarre tone. There’s a staginess to them, a distinct campiness — they represent a world where all genuine human emotion has been replaced by a painfully over-the-top imitation of it. These photos are trying so hard to be dark that their effort becomes hilarious. And the effect is amplified by scrolling through the Twitter feed and watching them pile up.
“Why do these photos exist?” Kelly asked in the Guardian. “Who is buying them? And to illustrate what?” I don’t know, but thanks to Dark Stock Photos, I do now have the answer to the biggest question of all:
Join me as we descend into the darkness::