How This Artist's Intentionally Cliche Self-Portrait Was Spread Across the Internet

A crummy stock-style photo ended up on hundreds of websites

Artist David Horvitz has managed to get his self-portrait published on hundreds of websites all around the world. But, there's nothing exceptional about the image; in fact, it is intentionally and definitively mundane.

For a project called "Mood Disorder," he studied the cliches of stock imagery under search terms including depression and sadness. Despite the efforts of select agencies (see: Getty's Lean In collection), he found the dismal landscape of stock photography is still littered with stereotypes and cliche visual tropes. Successfully picturing depression, among other intangible themes, is difficult even for the most talented photographers, and tends to be where you find the real bottom-of-the-barrel stock. Horvitz adopted some of the most common elements culled from his queries—black clothing, hands gripping head, tumultuous waves—and applied them to a hokey self-portrait he shot on a beach one morning in New York City.

In 2012, Horowitz uploaded the high resolution image to Wikipedia under a Creative Commons Attribution license with the username "Speacialtoyoutoyou." Ever since the image has been republished by numerous health blogs, as well as websites about bankruptcy and job satisfaction, for the most part uncredited. Horvitz has made a set of 57 prints of these websites where the image was used (an edition of 10) and will be publishing them in a book this fall, according to Dis Magazine.

Why did the image go viral? One could say that it is because the artist ceded his copyright and so many bloggers who had the practical problem of illustrating their pages used it because it was legal. On the other hand, hardly if anyone attributed the image, as the license required. After all, despite all self-righteous yammering about what some 65-year-old is up to at Gagosian Gallery, a key facet of the the culture from which those websites emerge has been the systematic disregard of traditional image rights. Bloggers didn’t appropriate nuanced images because they didn’t want them. They need socially-constructed visual shorthand for mental illness, demonstrating not only an unwillingness to see these themes beyond the cliche, but more disturbingly, a reluctance to look for new ways of thinking about them.

Via:

Artist David Horvitz has managed to get his self-portrait published on hundreds of websites all around the world. But, there's nothing exceptional about the image; in fact, it is intentionally and definitively mundane.

For a project called "Mood Disorder," he studied the cliches of stock imagery under search terms including depression and sadness. Despite the efforts of select agencies (see: Getty's Lean In collection), he found the dismal landscape of stock photography is still littered with stereotypes and cliche visual tropes. Successfully picturing depression, among other intangible themes, is difficult even for the most talented photographers, and tends to be where you find the real bottom-of-the-barrel stock. Horvitz adopted some of the most common elements culled from his queries—black clothing, hands gripping head, tumultuous waves—and applied them to a hokey self-portrait he shot on a beach one morning in New York City.

In 2012, Horowitz uploaded the high resolution image to Wikipedia under a Creative Commons Attribution license with the username "Speacialtoyoutoyou." Ever since the image has been republished by numerous health blogs, as well as websites about bankruptcy and job satisfaction, for the most part uncredited. Horvitz has made a set of 57 prints of these websites where the image was used (an edition of 10) and will be publishing them in a book this fall, according to Dis Magazine.

Why did the image go viral? One could say that it is because the artist ceded his copyright and so many bloggers who had the practical problem of illustrating their pages used it because it was legal. On the other hand, hardly if anyone attributed the image, as the license required. After all, despite all self-righteous yammering about what some 65-year-old is up to at Gagosian Gallery, a key facet of the the culture from which those websites emerge has been the systematic disregard of traditional image rights. Bloggers didn’t appropriate nuanced images because they didn’t want them. They need socially-constructed visual shorthand for mental illness, demonstrating not only an unwillingness to see these themes beyond the cliche, but more disturbingly, a reluctance to look for new ways of thinking about them.

Via:

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