For Marco Roso, an editor of the post-Internet lifestyle publication called DIS Magazine, stock photography has become an art form — albeit one lacking imagination: "Over the last five or ten years, these [images] have been influencing our culture in terms of everybody borrowing them," he said. And Lauren Boyle, a second DIS editor, noted that these images aren't just purchased to use in ad campaigns; in some cases, they guide the entire creative process. "Before [they] even decide, This is the girl we're going to shoot, this is the look, this is the location, and the mood, they're sourcing from stock images. It's constantly recycling the same thing," she added. A few weeks ago, Boyle peered behind her at the sets occupying the main room of the Suzanne Geiss Company gallery, where she and Roso had wrapped a shoot for DISImages.com, their new stock photography site. To her left, models in shapewear followed boxes of pizza into a crowded hair, makeup, and dressing room.
DIS and friends — including artists Harry Griffin, Frank Benson, and Ian Cheng — rotated in and out of the Soho space for three weeks, along with passersbys, to produce enough material for a fully functioning stock-photo site, which launched February 18 (the show closed Saturday). "The New Wholesome," one of the first shoots, directed by (two more) DIS editors, Solomon Chase and David Toro, was based on taking the images a person would get upon searching the word wholesome, like "vegetables, appliances, mothers, families," Chase said, and "mixing them in different ways. We did wholesome-looking Asian women making out on top of a washing machine with a lot of cash."
True to stock-photo form, Chase made nearly identical pictures, but kept swapping models, so the same images would be available with, say, a white woman or a black man: "There's a boy with long hair and a couple of black women who were bald ... Like who BIC'd their heads and they had wigs and wigs off." He went on, "In each situation, it's applicable to different clients in a way, even though probably a lot of them aren't applicable to anyone." DIS's "Smiling at Art" plays on the stock-photo trope of people smiling at art, while Benson's "iChiaroscuro" revises the light/dark contrasts of chiaroscuro using iPads. Shawn Maximo's "Neighboring Interests" portrays familiar scenarios (like falling asleep in class) with surreal aesthetics.
Now that DISImages is online (with a comprehensive search and tagging system), Boyle hopes the photos will be bought and downloaded as art, and also to accompany editorial pieces and in the commercial world. "It takes away that elitism of artists creating images because anyone can buy one," she said. "It could be sold a hundred times, so it's infinite, indefinite." Click ahead to see some of DIS's new stock options.
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