When I was 21 I got my first job out of University: making videos for YouTube for an internet company who made money off ads ( I don’t remember taking a course on this in school!). This company wished to monetize on YouTube the way they were monetizing their wordpress-google-ad-words-slideshow-websites. I was to create these videos.

For longer than I wish to admit, I made videos, primarily out of stock photos from Shutterstock, and narrated these videos. If you are good at internet sleuthing, you can probably find them. I am not proud of them, but then again, how often are we proud of what we do at our jobs? Unfortunately, I was contributing content that while not malicious, was arguably not really making the world a better place.

I spent a lot of time looking at stock photos. We had a Shutterstock account, and I was able to download a specific number of photos everyday. I did this everyday. As a result I think I have a lasting, strange relationship with stock photography; I find it both alienating yet altogether too familiar.

These days, I visit stock photo sites from time to time, such as Unsplash and Pexels (although I do not think either of these sites would, understandably, like to be referred to as such), in search of reference material for drawing. Sometimes, I will take a break from work to practice drawing faces, animals, or whatever else catches my eye.

Every now and then I come across something like this.

But wait, there’s more.

For a few months these photos have sat in a folder on my desktop entitled Newspaper Fire Stock Photos.

Need I spend time describing the why behind this photo? I think what’s more intriguing is how many there are, by different photographer accounts on these sites.

I don’t wish to be critical of this theme that seems to be spreading like burnt up newspaper fires; I was once a photographer looking for dramatic and telling subject matters. And yes, it is compelling to hold something on fire while posing for a photograph, and why yes, this is an apt description of the state of the world, isn’t it?

I can't really say, partly because of my aforementioned bizarre relationship with stock photographs. I do know that very few people read newspapers compared to 20 years ago. Shouldn’t there be an equivalent batch of stock photos of people’s phones exploding or on fire in their hands? Where are all the photos of people doom scrolling, blasé expressions abound?

I suppose that wouldn’t be interesting—you already see it everywhere. I've seen a lot of stock photos, and nuance isn't usually the word that comes to mind for me. A stock photo needs to have a flair for the dramatic. I'm afraid anything else just won't make the newspapers.