In 2017, on a whim - I published two images of myself to a free stock image site. I was curious to see what would happen (would I walk past a billboard one day to find my face plastered on it?). What happened was both predictable and hilarious.
The day I published the first image of my face to a stock image site was wholly unremarkable. I had been uploading other non-personal images to the site for a while to generate exposure, but had always avoided any that contained visible faces or identifying features. The idea of anyone having license-free access to my face to use in whatever form they wished skeeved me out. What if someone decided to use my face in an advertisement for toenail fungus?
In the few weeks prior however, something had changed. I had taken a few shots of myself I was happy with and I couldn't help but ask myself 'what is the worst that could happen?'. I had spent countless days weighing up the possible pitfalls and finally, in mid-May, I decided to throw my doubts to the wind and post the first image of my face.
Uploading the image and clicking 'post' was all too easy. So easy in fact, it slipped my mind entirely that I had made such a weird decision only a few days later. Months would come to pass and I wouldn't spare a second thought to the fact my side-profile was currently available for any person to download, free of charge on the internet.
The universe (or, more accurately the Twitter-verse) reminded me about the image in mid-July. I was on scrolling through my newsfeed when I received a new notification. To my surprise, someone had tagged me in a post where my face had been taken and redrawn. I was shocked, so much so that I couldn't help but look around the train to see if anyone else had seen what I had. No-one had.
I decided that afternoon to upload another one (why not, right?). This time, I was determined to track down exactly how both were being used through Google Image Searches and common URL threads (people tend not to change the name of images before uploading them).
Well, according to the official stats, in the period since both were uploaded, my two photos have been seen 700,000 plus times, culminating in 3000 plus downloads. They haven't been used to advertise toe nail fungus (yet), but they have gone on to promote interesting topics and products including secular homeschooling, sunscreen, baptist churches, digital nomads, korean TV, financial debt recovery, leather jackets and moisturising skin routines.
In articles posted online, my photos have illustrated interesting topics such as rejection, body-positivity and the dark-side of people born in April (which is actually quite odd, because I was born in April).
Overall, I'd say that the experience has been an unusual one, with the only question left in my mind:
Where will I pop up next?