Photos of regular people looking extraordinarily bad
December 30, 2007 11:07 PM   Subscribe

Not all portrait photography studios are equal. "Total frickin' awesomeness from Olan Mills, Sears and other fine portrait studios."
posted by Astro Zombie (98 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
That first photo had me mesmorized.

First, is the kid in back Andy Samberg?

Second, how in the world did that troll get a fine redhead like that? She's actually quite fetching, while he is borderline revolting.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:17 PM on December 30, 2007


I think this one is my favorite. These pictures are awesome!
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:17 PM on December 30, 2007


Hilarious in a oddly painful way. Thanks.
posted by washburn at 11:21 PM on December 30, 2007


Memories. Lots and lots of memories. Thankfully, none of those are of me. So of course I can laugh. Ha!
Now I'm off to destroy any trace of me having lived through the 70's and 80's.
posted by gummi at 11:24 PM on December 30, 2007


Nice find!
I worked for a couple of years in the digital department of a lab for pro photographers and ran across many epic portraits. Alas, if I unleashed them upon the public, I would have been punished somehow...and not in the fun way.
posted by bonobo at 11:28 PM on December 30, 2007


The captioning is hilarious! Nice find, Astro Zombie; perfect capper to my night.
posted by heyho at 11:35 PM on December 30, 2007


Nothing says 1973 quite like denim and helmet hair.

These are actually Siamese triplets.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:35 PM on December 30, 2007


I LOLd.

Anyone remember the SNL skit with (I think) Alec Baldwin playing the owner of a photography studio that offered "classy" photos like these (the couple-inside-the-brandy-snifter style)? I've been looking for a video clip of that one.
posted by mullacc at 11:41 PM on December 30, 2007


I think it's a rock or something in the background, but now that you mention it, it really does look like an animal carcass...
posted by miss lynnster at 11:44 PM on December 30, 2007


I can only assume that that second photo was taken for the cover of the ultra-rare "mugging for the camera" pressing of Will Oldham's Days in the Wake.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:48 PM on December 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


... someone I love very much used to work at a portrait studio.

thanks for the funny pictures.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:16 AM on December 31, 2007


She used to sneak home the really hysterical ones, and we'd give them funny titles and gather the best of the best into special categories. I really miss those days.
posted by EatTheWeak at 12:18 AM on December 31, 2007


With the rightwrong photographer any of us can look like that. That's why it's so important that DaShiv and his camera attend EVERY MeFi Meetup.

Ladies and gentlemen, third place in the Adam Savage Lookalike contest. (He was in the lead until he showed this picture)

It's so true, honey, we both look better when we've been drinking.

How Giulliani keeps his kid from bothering him during campaign speeches.

Rejected album cover for Heart

I see one of the pictures got taken down... How did Olan Mills get a picture of Sweetney's dog?
posted by wendell at 12:44 AM on December 31, 2007


I would love to have a portrait as goofy as #2's. Really. If I ever give in to my parents' request for a 'classy' photo, that's exactly the format I want. "I have a giant, pensive half-lit head floating over my shoulder, and I simply can't stop giggling!"
posted by maryh at 1:00 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


The commentary on the photos could kinda go either way, but it's spot on for this sucker. Someone DID pay money for that. What the hell.

Cute cat, though.
posted by dismas at 1:13 AM on December 31, 2007


What's wrong with the cat?

The cat is serious.
posted by blacklite at 1:43 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


The cat would've benefited from the pensive half-lit floating head treatment, tho'.
posted by maryh at 1:55 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Picture day at the asylum"

Brilliant.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:58 AM on December 31, 2007


thanks astro, captions are really great
posted by nicolin at 2:19 AM on December 31, 2007


Thanks for the belly laughs Astro Zombie. Wonderfully funny cheesiness.

Adding to the cheese factor, portraits made of people's butts. (bonus link below, cappuccino art). The Awful World of Glamour Portraits. Awful tattoo portraits.
posted by nickyskye at 2:23 AM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


I needed a good laugh, and this was it.

Awesome find, Astro.
posted by bwg at 2:23 AM on December 31, 2007


The Awful World of Glamour Portraits.

Ah yes, nothing says "glamour" like a feather boa.
posted by bwg at 2:26 AM on December 31, 2007


Oh, nickyskye... I truly hope that the tattoo of the little girl on that guy's arm is supposed to be Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Because if it's not... oh, it's too mortifying to think about.
posted by maryh at 2:45 AM on December 31, 2007


Nickyskye, this woman is quite lovely--despite her ridiculous outfit. I think I spent far too many nights alone in high school during the early 80's thinking about her (or her stand-in).

Nice find, astro. They're funny, the captions aren't too mean, and they are charming in a mullety way.
posted by maxwelton at 2:50 AM on December 31, 2007


Oh, man. What a find. ("Butt cut with wings and earmuffs"??? I LOL'ed). The only thing worse than 70s fashions were ... 80s fashions.
posted by psmealey at 3:31 AM on December 31, 2007


ha! They should check out the bridal studio photos that are everywhere in Malaysia. They're usually quite nice, but if you're not Chinese then they have issues with makeup & lighting & poses and the possibilities for looking strange are endless.

I've taken a bunch of those photos and in my first set I have the same smile on ALMOST EVERY PHOTO. As my sister pointed out, it's like they Photoshopped my head and just pasted it on. And it wasn't a lovely smile or anything - it was the "I'm only smiling because you want me to" smile. In another one I was dressed in quite punky clothing - and then I was asked to pose with stuffed toys. And grin. Er, wtf.

One time I was waiting at a photo studio and there was a huge framed picture of a married couple. I stated a bit too loudly that the groom looked like he was 12 (well, he did!). My friend poked me and pointed out that the old lady sitting next to the picture was probably his mother.
posted by divabat at 3:43 AM on December 31, 2007


Oh, god, the picture of the married couple in the tilty library could totally be my parents. My mother had that hair and that type of dress and my father had that horrible hair. His suit was worse though (he's an engineer, we only recently got him out of aviator glasses.)
posted by cobaltnine at 4:02 AM on December 31, 2007


I really needed this today ... thanks AZ!
posted by jbickers at 4:03 AM on December 31, 2007


That dude wore a tie for nothing.

How very true.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:14 AM on December 31, 2007


thanks astro, captions are really great

Dawn and her recently exhumed sister, Gorgotha, pose with Scraps.

This post is total frickin' awesomeness. National Geographic could not have produced a more authentic ethnographic study of America ca. 1975.
posted by three blind mice at 4:38 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was so relieved that none of my school pictures made it into that thread. Then. like any publicity-hungry American, I wondered if I should send one in.
posted by TedW at 5:04 AM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


The past is another country, the people where uglier then (and had terrible clothes)... The 'one shot of me moodily staring into the sky superimposed on top of one of me laughing' just oozes class, wish I had a shot of myself like.

Oh and Fred is staring into my very soul...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:07 AM on December 31, 2007


Great fun! But now I'm terribly, terribly curious about the one that was removed.
posted by taz at 5:09 AM on December 31, 2007


These are all funny, but the two pedophiles with their latest catch freaks my shit.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 5:10 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


The lady on the left looks like an advert for some rather specialist service...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:13 AM on December 31, 2007


I'm very greatful that I finally know what a leisure suit is. Albeit a little disappointed to find that it's really just a safari suit executed in turquoise Crimplene.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:58 AM on December 31, 2007


I'd be even more greatful if I was the sort of person who knew how to spell grateful.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:59 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


I LOLd and LOLd. What makes the Olan Mills shots even more delightfully creepy is that, at least in my region, they didn't have established studios; the photographers went from town to town renting low-end motel rooms and moving all the furniture out to make room for the backdrops and equipment. Total frickin' skeeviness.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:12 AM on December 31, 2007


The only thing missing in this one is a copy of The Fountainhead.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:16 AM on December 31, 2007


Is there anything inappropriate on the site? For some reason it won't come up here at work... this makes for a very disapointing morning.
posted by ForeverDcember at 6:29 AM on December 31, 2007


Ah, memories of the 70s. Fortunately, I was too young to be wearing leisure suits, but I was seen in bell bottoms during that period. Wish those'd come back around; I kinda liked 'em! (I probably shouldn't say that in public though.)
posted by jamstigator at 6:32 AM on December 31, 2007


I love it. And, I was very relieved to not see myself in there, because no one made it through the 1970s without at least one bad haircut and many strange outfits.
posted by Forktine at 6:44 AM on December 31, 2007


What makes the Olan Mills shots even more delightfully creepy is that, at least in my region, they didn't have established studios; the photographers went from town to town renting low-end motel rooms and moving all the furniture out to make room for the backdrops and equipment.

Where I am there are a couple of free-standing studios, but they also go around to different places as "fundraisers" selling packages with a cut going to the sponsor. In the past couple of years they have done them at the hospital where I work and my mother's church. The ones at the church were kind of assholes; they set up in the nursery of all places and then got pissed off when people actually brought their kids in there to play.
posted by TedW at 6:52 AM on December 31, 2007


"Is there anything inappropriate on the site?"

Everything, my friend. Everything.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:14 AM on December 31, 2007


Sweet merciful crap, why would you do this to your kids?
posted by bibliowench at 7:34 AM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Olan Mills, Olan Mills. I am so freaking glad they do not have my current phone number.
posted by mds35 at 7:36 AM on December 31, 2007


First laugh of the day. I remember cheesy photos like these were required for the senior yearbook, and I still have the ones of both my husband and myself (we were dating back then). The captions are spot on, too!
posted by misha at 7:46 AM on December 31, 2007


I felt bad laughing at these.
posted by tommasz at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2007


Not that I stopped looking, of course.
posted by tommasz at 7:48 AM on December 31, 2007


Ynoxas: That first photo had me mesmorized. [...] how in the world did that troll get a fine redhead like that? She's actually quite fetching, while he is borderline revolting.
Yeah, I'm (only marginally) ashamed to admit I thought the same thing. She's foxy! That's what I like about girls in 1970's photography; I keep getting older, and they stay the same age...

Kudos to the smuggler, though; I'd petition heartily that we need more such Olan Mills/Sears photography. :)
posted by hincandenza at 7:54 AM on December 31, 2007


Oh man, I remember seeing the brandy glass shot for the first time when I was in kindergarten. some girl came in clutching a photo of her parents trapped in a glass. I remember the whole thing really struck me as classy and expensive. Ah, youth.
posted by piratebowling at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2007


Ynoxas and hincandenza ask: how in the world did that troll get a fine redhead like that? She's actually quite fetching, while he is borderline revolting.

Maybe he's running for President.
posted by The Bellman at 8:11 AM on December 31, 2007


This post is total frickin' awesomeness. National Geographic could not have produced a more authentic ethnographic study of America ca. 1975.

But Mike Disfarmer this is not.
posted by Slothrup at 8:24 AM on December 31, 2007


Once they had two or three, how did they ever find enough time alone to make more?

I wonder this ALL THE TIME. Any time I meet a family with more than two kids, I wonder how on earth time was scheduled in for procreating, unless time from other essential activities - like eating, sleeping, and watching Law & Order - was sacrificed.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:31 AM on December 31, 2007


Upon scrolling further down the page, I feel compelled to add:

Grapefruit smuggling isn't a crime, but posing it in profile should be.

HEY NOW. We have rights in this country. The right to do whatever we damn well please with our grapefruits is in the Constitution! I believe it's the 43rd amendment.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:34 AM on December 31, 2007


Okay, just who are these guys, and why are they also in this?

Hmmm.....
posted by Dr-Baa at 8:48 AM on December 31, 2007


Maybe he's running for President.

He got the trophy wife, but he also got herpes.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:50 AM on December 31, 2007


It's funny he's making fun of the haircuts. Has he been to a college campus lately? Those haircuts are back.
posted by goatdog at 8:55 AM on December 31, 2007


You just know that the wall street kid is all grown up and is the polar opposite of that photo. Someone should tell parents that if they want a stock market trading kid then they need to dress and photograph him like a stoned hippy a few times.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:56 AM on December 31, 2007


damn dirty ape, for all you know the kid's parents are board members of the local Greenpeace chapter. Give the folks some credit.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:59 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


The captions are indeed great, but I really like the ones that got no caption at all. They simply exist in a world of awesomeness that needs no snark.

But if you are going to caption, you can't fault the genius:

Patrick broke ranks and chose drag over the bow tie
posted by quin at 9:19 AM on December 31, 2007


After some digging around inspired by the first ad in the side-bar I found out that McGard really does make a product that "limits manhole access". Only it's not nearly as interesting as my snarky self had imagined.
posted by clevershark at 9:35 AM on December 31, 2007


...and the caption for the cat picture is spot-on.
posted by clevershark at 9:37 AM on December 31, 2007


After some digging around inspired by the first ad in the side-bar I found out that McGard really does make a product that "limits manhole access". Only it's not nearly as interesting as my snarky self had imagined.

Not nearly as interesting? That is the most erotic product name I've ever heard of that wasn't directly a sex related product. For example: "Intimidator Man Locks limit manhole access" I mean, come on, why not just name your product the "Big Black Penetrator" or the "Leatherman Tool" and get it over with!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:42 AM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


These are great...i LOLd for about 5 straight minutes...
posted by schyler523 at 9:44 AM on December 31, 2007


Q: Are we not men?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:17 AM on December 31, 2007


Great post! I love looking at old photos like these. I've posted this collection of promo headshots from the 70s & 80s before, but it might be worth another mention.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:22 AM on December 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love that The Unusuals look anything but.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:28 AM on December 31, 2007




I laughed, but then reflected that in every picture (except maybe a couple) there was an earnest attempt by those in them to simply have a nice portrait taken of themselves. Along those lines, its not much different than laughing at people you see walking down the street, except they can't notice.

I then laughed more, and like Tommasz, I felt bad. I'll make this my guilty pleasure for the day, versus eating something horribly unhealthy.
posted by Atreides at 10:42 AM on December 31, 2007


Man, I really wanna see Daybreak grove...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:44 AM on December 31, 2007


me. Oh the Horror, my eyes... they bleed.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:00 AM on December 31, 2007


A young Mario Lemieux dreams of the haircuts he'll be able to afford with all of his future NHL earnings.
posted by mzanatta at 11:06 AM on December 31, 2007


This one reminds me of every class photo I've ever taken. I'd start out sitting there comfortably and normally. The photographer would say "Ok tilt your head." "Ok turn to the left." "More." "More." The entire time I'd be struggling to preserve some kind of naturalness to my pose while feeling all the more awkward with each adjustment. I was baffled by the contradiction between what felt right and what this knucklehead behind the camera thought looked right. By the time he said "Ok hold it!" a natural-looking smile was outside the realm of my capability. I couldn't hold both my spine and my face at the same time. I felt just like our friend Kevin there. Most of the time, I ended up looking like him too.
posted by rlk at 11:08 AM on December 31, 2007


Ah, Pioneer Woman. How I love reading your peculiar yet lovable blog.
I salute you for offering up your photo to the world.
posted by bassjump at 11:44 AM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is Olands Mills?
posted by wfc123 at 12:50 PM on December 31, 2007


"The only thing missing in [Wall Street Kid photo] is a copy of The Fountainhead."

Well, shit. Now I have a reason to have kids. That would totally go on the mantle.
posted by liet at 2:39 PM on December 31, 2007


Hey, man, we got to have some mulleted 70's music to accompany these lulz.

In honor of the mullets tag, Rate My Mullets photographs. The person in this 70's portrait didn't make it. And Mullet Hunters Flickr pool. Under the cat abuse tag, cats with mullets.
posted by nickyskye at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2007


drat, lost that 70's music link, next best.
posted by nickyskye at 2:55 PM on December 31, 2007


wfc: Olan Mills.
posted by box at 3:12 PM on December 31, 2007


Anderson Cooper? (back right) With The Proclaimers? (in glasses)
posted by Frank Grimes at 3:46 PM on December 31, 2007


One of my favorite Olan Mills moments ever. - courtesy of a friend.
posted by louche mustachio at 4:41 PM on December 31, 2007


This format seemed to be all the rage for grade school portraits in Phoenix, circa 1981. My mother, a woman of extraordinary good taste and judgement, took one look at the sample image on the announcement the school sent home with me, and decided that I should stay home "sick" on portrait day.
posted by dantsea at 5:06 PM on December 31, 2007


Many of these could have been from my childhood. Family portrait day was always a dreaded event. We had a few done with the family dog.

"Image removed at request of owner." Ah, well, I can understand that. Glad none of my shots ended up on the site. It would be a bit surreal finding out you're in one of the featured shots on such a blog. It helps to have a sense of humor about it, but, still ...

What's up with the shirtless photos? Like this one. Who's sick idea was that? I'm guessing not the girl in the photo. "Hey, how about you guys take off your shirts and flex, and then I'll pose underneath the triangle of muscle you form above me. And for God's sake don't smile! It's going in the Christmas letter!"

This one cracks me up. About a third have puzzled and/or surprised expressions, most of the rest seem very serious, and a couple have smirks. Is that just a montage of the 3/4 profiles in these photos? Is this some backroom Olan Mills art project by one of the frustrated photogs, making freeform creations from such rich source material? Gilding the lily, as it were? Smoking some of that Lebanese hash in the darkroom again?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:35 PM on December 31, 2007


krinklyfig writes "Is that just a montage of the 3/4 profiles in these photos?"

Missed the link. These photos.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:37 PM on December 31, 2007


krinklyfig writes "Is that just a montage of the 3/4 profiles in these photos?"

kinklyfig: I believe you are correct; "Mirthful Lance" is definitely in "The Damned" montage.
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:30 PM on December 31, 2007


Is this some backroom Olan Mills art project by one of the frustrated photogs, making freeform creations from such rich source material?

I interpreted it as some sort of bizarre Queen tribute.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:43 PM on December 31, 2007


FelliniBlank writes "I interpreted it as some sort of bizarre Queen tribute."

Ha!

You know, you're probably exactly right.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:47 PM on December 31, 2007


I like how they left out the caption for this one.
posted by porpoise at 7:53 PM on December 31, 2007


... and I truly wish to have, to be, as cool of a family as this one and actually have it displayed on the fireplace mantle/sent-out-as-a-xmas-card.
posted by porpoise at 8:20 PM on December 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yea, porpoise, that looks like an awesome family. The sort they write kid's stories about.
posted by Goofyy at 11:46 PM on December 31, 2007


Goofyy - is there a kid's story series that that family was emulating/referencing?
posted by porpoise at 10:12 AM on January 1, 2008


Priceless comedy!
posted by petersn1 at 11:36 AM on January 1, 2008


I think a coffee table book is in order on this theme.
posted by doug3505 at 9:56 PM on January 1, 2008


FOUND: Proof that the dude in picture 1 is in fact R. STEVIE MOORE

What do I win?
posted by not_on_display at 3:28 PM on January 2, 2008


It's extra weird, because I only just saw this FPP, immediately thought, "That guy looks like R. Stevie Moore" and went to his quite extensive website to look for a comparable photo. The linked-to picture was the third or fourth picture, out of thousands on his site, that I frandomly clicked on.

The universe is strange.

posted by not_on_display at 3:36 PM on January 2, 2008


...frandomly strange.
posted by not_on_display at 3:37 PM on January 2, 2008


The Purvis family made several stops along the Oregon Trail to document their six-month journey.

That background is all too familiar. The wheel prop, happily not.
posted by Tehanu at 2:29 PM on January 18, 2008


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