The Biggest Mistake Ever: Vice Journalist about Modeling for a Stock Photo

Czech advertising for shaving products, illustration for an article about paraphimosis, and a music video for a song in Arabic — Niccolo Massariello explains how he agreed to be featured in stock photographs and why he damns that day.

Last year, journalist Niccolo Massariello took an offer of a photographer friend who asked him to take part in a photoshoot — the friend planned to sell the resulting photographs on photo stocks. Massariello says he was living through not the best time of his life, and therefore quickly agreed. “I thought that might be a nice distraction. [My friend] specialises in stock photos – so not exactly glamour shots, but beggars can’t be choosers,” he says in his article on Vice.

After the shoot, Massariello signed the paper saying that the all the rights for the photographs are transferred to his friend and he can start selling them. “Will anyone actually buy these photos?” he asked the photographer, to which he replied: “Well, you’ll find out soon enough.”

It was then that I realised I had no control over what might happen to my face. Anyone with an internet connection and a bit of cash could buy the images and do whatever they wanted with them.

The wait lasted several months. And then, the journalist found out that his photograph was first used — by a religious website called Those Catholic Men. “That in itself wasn’t so bad, but it was then that I realised I had no control over what might happen to my face,” Massariello says. “Anyone with an internet connection and a bit of cash could buy the images and do whatever they wanted with them.”

Soon, his photographs were decorating the advertising for a Colombian liquor and a promotion campaign for gluten-free products.

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After some time, Massariello’s face started showing up on advertising all over the world. The photographs with him were purchased by companies from Saudi Arabia, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Venezuela, and a journalist friend told him that he saw his photograph on a garbage can in Tokyo — the caption reminded how important it was to sort garbage.

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Then followed a music video of an unknown Arab performer which featured Massariello’s photograph, a Czech advertising for shaving products, and a book cover for Northwoods Wolfman by Scott Burtness.

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In early January, the journalist received a message from an acquaintance in Venezuela who asked if it’s true that he had paraphimosis. It turned out that his photograph was used to illustrate the article on the website of one of the largest local newspapers — the article was titled: Paraphimosis: the disease of the penis.

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“I know I can’t really complain,” Massariello says. “I was fully conscious when I had those pictures taken and I actively signed away the rights to my face. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t rue the day I posed for those pictures.”

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