Absurd banalities

Stock photos is essentially about trivialities. Pictures of perfectly ordinary things in setups designed to give the impression of having been taken directly out of everyday life. Therefore the challenge is to get setups to look real while simultaneously creating an image which is photographically appealing – that is to say, not like anything taken with a mobile phone in everyday life 🙂

One of the truly fun aspects of my speciality is transforming mundane images to the absurd. Let us take an example of a banal image:


It doesn’t get much more banal than this! A totally simple image that anyone can reproduce without complicated equipment, and with a minimum of props. Yet – despite the banalities – this is among my most-sold pictures and will be found in hundreds of publications. The picture lends itself to different interpretations and it can be expanded upon using text on the toe label.

I very often create different versions of the same image. Either in the same photo session, or else I might return to the theme later if new ideas occur to me. I have a lot of visual themes in my archives that are repeated in dozens of moods.

A good black and white version is almost a must. It conveys a completely different atmosphere – a little cinematic in appearance, and it can be produced in no time.


Almost as popular as the colour version, but not far from banal. Let’s put some symbols to work:


An immediately improvement! The picture can no longer be as universally relevant and its marketability is therefore considerably reduced. We no longer have an image which will be sold on the volume market such as Royalty Free (which means cheap) but must instead be upgraded to a Rights Managed image that fetches a considerably higher price and for a limited purpose. If the symbolism is not clear enough, it may be better if you think about the exhaustion of Christmas. That’s enough to kill anyone 😉


If you think they are too abstract, then smileys (and sadley’s) are other obvious and easily understandable symbols:


The possibilities are almost endless. Replace the label with an air freshener, a pair of fluffy dice or a picture of the classic, old-fashioned jumping jack, and the picture suddenly conveys a whole new symbolism and tells a different story.

I get most fun out of creating images where the setups and symbols become so absurd that not even I have a clear idea of where they can be used!


The most fun, but not necessarily always the most profitable. It erodes marketability a little, but someone has to create them 🙂  On the other hand, the price can be high enough to produce a profit with the first order. And selling is what it’s all about.

My speciality – or at least the aspect of photography I am most passionate about – is not just the absurd and bizarre, but rather the grotesque. Pictures of the stories that are not allowed to be told. In an article soon to be released I will be telling more about how the absurd becomes grotesque, and how people react when you challenge the taboos.


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