Stock photography has a certain aesthetic: Colorful, simple, and inoffensive. Sites like Shutterstock have your back when you need photos of smiling coworkers, diverse millennials, or starry-eyed paramours. Turns out they’ve also got you if you’re delving into more taboo territory. You know, things like suicide, senecide, alcoholism, and pretty much any horrifying scenario you can imagine, all presented with the same bright, forcefully staged compositions as regular stock-photo contemporaries.
Earlier this month, a Twitter account called Dark Stock Photos began terrorizing the internet with these photos, revealing a sick, depraved corner of the stock-photo marketplace filled with awkward depictions of horrific, eerily specific scenarios.
The first question that comes to mind is who could possibly be using these? In what situation is this photo of a woman jamming a gun into the crotch of an unconscious man the perfect visual accompaniment?
Or this man smoking cigarettes with his infant child?
It’s probably best to look at these photos as a form of visual storytelling. The best ones function as little one-act plays, portraits of tragedy that raise intriguing questions.
For example, why would this man go to the lengths of tying a noose if he’s still considering the gun?
Why is this child sleeping on the stairs? How does the vent cover fit in?
How does the lock and chain fit into this scenario? Don’t answer that.
Who thought it wise to recreate the end of Seven with a 4-year old?
But sometimes the question you’re left with is a much simpler one: What was the vibe like on set? Seriously, did these two ever sleep again?