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@darkstockphotos pokes fun at disturbing stock imagery

Kids doing lines, mums downing bottles – these are the saddest public domain images

A disturbing amount of options are available when you go on a stock photography site and search for things like “kids doing coke” or “girl taking selfie with AK-47”. Andy Kelly noticed it too. So he started a Twitter account with the handle @darkstockphotos, which features “extremely fucked up stock photography”. Kelly – an online writer – trawls through places like Shutterstock to find the weird and wacky images that somehow exist, and maybe even get purchased and used. Sad.

The world of stock photography has recently been given new life by subreddits like /r/youdontsurf, where stock photos and videos are given a new narrative with hilarious captions and M. Night Shyamalan twists. Most are funny, some are bizarre; all are dark. Whatever the reason a legitimate photographer thought to a) shoot children in compromising situations, and b) thought it would be easily saleable, these images exist and are, without context, pretty damn funny. Kelly – who started the account this month – counts down his 10 favourite images.

“Crying boy with a gun on the coast”

“This raises so many questions. Who gave this child a gun? Why is he so devastated? And who forced him to wear those yellow pants? Imagining the photographer directing this shot makes it even funnier. ‘You've just killed your mother, OK?’ *click* ‘You're filled with sadness and regret.’ *click* ‘Perfect!’”

“Drunk reckless woman drinking alcohol and holding her crying baby after return from night party”

“The trials of motherhood have driven this young woman to crouch next to her front door and drink an entire bottle of unbranded white wine. This is particularly harrowing because the baby seems genuinely distressed to be a part of the shoot. A grim scene made hilarious by the bizarre artifice of stock photography.”

“Group of teenage boys taking drugs at home”

“This kid is way ahead of his peers. While they knock back blue alcopops, he’s railing fat lines of coke off a CD case balanced on a beige leather sofa. I love this because despite the hedonism on display, it also has an air of suburban tedium. You just know this kid is captain of the soccer team when he’s not honking up gak.”

“Daddy and baby with cigarette”

“This is incredible. The serene look on the baby's face kills me, and I honestly have no idea why anyone would ever buy it. To illustrate what? The national epidemic of nihilistic fathers forcing babies to smoke? I wish I could have seen the photographer setting this one up. I want to climb inside his mad brain.”

“Mourning woman”

“Stock photos are, like all great works of art, open to interpretation. But the message is pretty clear here: this woman is not ‘mourning’ as the description suggests, and is in fact delighted that the guy in the coffin is dead. The devilish look on her face is magnificent and laced with beguiling mystery.”

“Fat man playing naughty Santa Claus”

“I don’t think this would be as dark without the Santa hat. There’s something about bringing Christmas into this display of a man seductively tweaking his nipples that makes it drift into the arena of the disturbing. And the orgasmic expression and raggedy beard only add to the general ambience of unease.”

“Middle-aged man dealing with seasonal depression”

“Seasonal depression is no joke, but this image is so incredibly on the nose that I can't help but laugh at it. The bottle of Jameson. The gun pressed against his head. The Christmas tree. It’s a prime example of how gloriously crass and unsubtle stock photography can be when dealing with serious issues.”

“Thief is stealing kidnapped baby from stroller in park”

“There’s so much to love here. The unconcerned expression on the baby’s face, and the fact that she’s looking directly at the camera. The horribly Photoshopped stroller in the background. The cheeky look on the kidnapper’s face. It's more slapstick than sinister.”

“Danger on the road caused by drunken drivers”

“OK, now this is high art. This dude is casually offering you, his passenger, a beer as he drives sideways on a busy freeway. He appears to be in the middle of a totally radical high speed drift, but is more concerned with you having a swig of booze. What a gentleman.”

“Young man in a dress shirt putting a young man in a business suit in a trance”

“I don’t know why this chap is putting his colleague in a trance, but it can’t be anything good. The eerie dead-eyed look on his face, and the blank gaze of his victim, are absolutely chilling. And, once again, what the hell would you use this to illustrate anyway?”