Hidden In Plain Sight

It’s an achievement to be anonymous these days. Everyone and their dog is on Facebook, and a few keystrokes on Google usually turns up the rest. Yet there are dozens of people that we see every day who, for all intents and purposes, don’t really exist.

You see them on sites large and small, perfectly lit and photographed, smiling, and doing things Just Like You And I Would. Often you see them after mistyping a web address like that of the New York Times (www.nytimes.com). A genius move by the web squatters really. Instead of feeling rage because you’ve fallen into their trap, they distract you with a symmetrically-faced human being. Kinda takes the edge off of becoming an unwitting pawn in their efforts to extort money from, in this case, the New York Times (or, for all I know, there’s a band, philanthropic society, or dodgeball team called the New York Tims).

I’ve heard that Miami and L.A. are the modeling capitals of the U.S., but given how the avatars of the stock photography world usually look like they were poured straight from a milk carton, my guess is that they’re actually lassoed down or grown in Utah. But it doesn’t really matter, and I’m sure they’re grateful to get stock photo modeling gigs. And if Chrissie Hynde can stomach her music being used as the audio calling card for Rush Limbaugh, I’m sure these folks can handle falsely shilling for the New York Tims.

So hold your heads high, anonymous stock photo pixies. Hold. Your. Heads. HIGH.


  1. Brett Glass
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    It’s just a picture of some nameless college girl on the Stanford campus (that’s Stanford’s Hoover Tower in the background, together with the campus’ trademark clay tile roofs). No doubt she didn’t realize that her smile would become the smirk of a squatter holding a domain for ransom.

  2. Pinder
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    I think that’s actually the photographer’s daughter. I remember seeing this on reddit a while back.

  3. Posted March 17, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    @Brett OR it is a nameless girl who has been photoshopped to be on the Stanford campus but really lives half a country away.

  4. Rich
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    The photo is a picture of Hannah Steller, sister of the photographer Dustin Steller.

    According to the photographer, this was shot in the Kansas City area and “definitely not a real college campus”. ( http://yousuckatwebsites.com/web-trends/the-most-infamous-girl-in-the-history-of-the-internet#comment-135 ).

    The original picture can be found here: http://www.istockphoto.com/search/portfolio/39198/?facets={%2235%22:[%22hf7%22]}#155365b2

    That’s the trouble with the internet – people don’t stay anonymous forever… 🙁

  5. Posted March 17, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Well there we have it–at least as far as Hannah Steller is concerned. But there’s some comfort in knowing that there are some visible people whose identities take a little more effort to uncover. I’d say if it takes medium/high-profile websites to unmask you, you’re doing pretty well in the anonymity department.


    edit: I still think I deserve partial credit–Kansas City rates pretty close to Utah on the Wholesome meter

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