When stock photos go horribly awry. Picture: iStock
When stock photos go horribly awry. Picture: iStock

When stock photos go horribly awry

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?

Becoming the poster boys and girls for disturbing causes is a far cry from where those posing for inoffensive stock images - used in newspapers, magazines and adverts 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, after one man joked he looked like the model on a tobacco warning label.


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, told The Sun: "It was just a photo I'd taken for fun with my parents' dogs in their back yard 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 recognised as 'that guy' by people that had read the article."

But despite the questionable associations, Mr Kivaiko 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."


Niccolò Massariello, a Spanish writer for Vice, revealed how his stock photos ended up on adverts for booze, milk, the Catholic Church and even paraphimosis - a horrifying genital condition in which the penis' foreskin gets trapped behind the tip of the penis.

Following a tricky break up, Mr Massariello embarked on an impulsive photoshoot with a mate to try and take his mind off stuff, and signed away his rights to the images without realising 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 realised I had no control over what might happen to my face," he told Vice.

In the following months, Mr 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 Mr Massariello finding his increasingly-popular face on the cover of a book about monsters, an advert for shaving, and, finally, on 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."

His 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."


Like many others in her situation, Samantha Ovens' stock image modelling shots - which were originally taken for a campaign on cold and flu medication - were used for something she could never have imagined.

Ms Ovens was out with her friends when she was first alerted to the fact that her face had been used on article, titled: "I fantasise about group sex with old, obese men," on The Guardian's anonymous sex column.

Samantha Ovens ended up on an awkward sex column. Picture: Screenshot/The Guardian
Samantha Ovens ended up on an awkward sex column. Picture: Screenshot/The Guardian


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 Ms Ovens' image was next to.

Luckily, the successful model, who usually specialises in portraying mums, found the whole thing hilarious.

"I was with my partner's mum [when I first saw it]," she 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."


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 which they strongly disagreed with.

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 on.

"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."

This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission.

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