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Photobombing
May 2, 2008 1:30 AM   Subscribe

Photobombing n 1. The fine art of ruining other people's photographs. cf. n 2. The utterly pointless act of attaching printed photographs to public places, objects and buildings for random strangers to find.^ [Main link via, with cooler text commentary. This and first link NSFW.]
posted by Sonny Jim (38 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's annoying. Most of the entries on that second link are from my home town, though they seem to have quit a year ago. I doubt they survived the winter but I'll keep an eye out for some of those.
posted by vbfg at 1:49 AM on May 2, 2008


I don't believe the kids call it "Photobombing." They lean towards calling it 'being that guy' and I'll be damned if it isn't a worthwhile skill.
posted by clearly at 1:50 AM on May 2, 2008


Utterly pointless? Well, I guess so... but only if you consider lots of other art "utterly pointless". I think some of this stuff is cool, and would be delighted to come upon some of them while walking about. I think it's a fine idea! And just like any other artistic activity and artisitic expression, there'll be those who do it well, and those who don't. Some of the ones I've seen here I'd call successful, others, not so much.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:01 AM on May 2, 2008


BTW, in case it's not clear, I'm referring to the idea as expressed in the 2nd link. I have no opinion whatsoever on the photobombing as defined in the 1st link...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:04 AM on May 2, 2008


The first link is hysterical.
posted by ejoey at 3:01 AM on May 2, 2008


The first link wears out quickly and reminds me of the old habit of putting "rabbit ears" behind your sister's head when your dad takes the family photo. Or the random dork who jumps up and down behind the TV reporter.
posted by Peach at 3:06 AM on May 2, 2008


that first link is utterly, baffling, brilliant.
posted by patricio at 3:07 AM on May 2, 2008


The best of the first link have to be the expressions of disgusted outrage! The posing and looming and flashing are good too, but the expressions of disgust made me laugh the most.
posted by emperor.seamus at 3:11 AM on May 2, 2008


First prize goes to the Wild Man of Borneo in photo #1.
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:17 AM on May 2, 2008


They lean towards calling it 'being that guy' and I'll be damned if it isn't a worthwhile skill.

Wait, I thought one ought to endeavor not to be "that guy?" Whereas photobombing, n., 1, is a source of much divertissement.
posted by grouse at 3:31 AM on May 2, 2008


Wait, I thought one ought to endeavor not to be "that guy?"

You don't want to be "that guy" at a party per-say, that is too old, too drunk, too creepy, etc.

On the other hand, being "that guy" who ruins a picture is a respectable. One would be foolish not to seize the opportunity to ruin the photograph of a massive assemblage of sorority girls.
posted by clearly at 3:52 AM on May 2, 2008



The best of the first link have to be the expressions of disgusted outrage! The posing and looming and flashing are good too, but the expressions of disgust made me laugh the most.

The best ones really pull you into them from a narrative point of view. Was the photographer colluding with the photobomber and what exactly had the carefully arranged, grinning people in the foreground done to deserve this treatment?
posted by rongorongo at 3:53 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, considering that a photograph is a still picture, it's quite an accomplishment to lend it dramatic irony and ambiguous narrative.

On the spur of the moment, yet.

(But yeah, especially all in a row like that, they wear thin soon.)
posted by dhartung at 4:11 AM on May 2, 2008


The utterly pointless act

If you think juvenile attempts at getting attention are pointless.... fruitless perhaps, but never pointless.
posted by three blind mice at 4:16 AM on May 2, 2008


The first link was gold. The second link actually reminded me that yesterday I found a cool, totally out of place photograph on a windowsill in the library, I wondered why someone had left that behind...maybe now I know!
posted by liquorice at 4:52 AM on May 2, 2008


I'd like the Photobombing (second link) more if your man just left the photos around the place, as little presents for the curious. (I can see why he wants to turn it into a big complex thing with ID numbers and folk uploading photos of the photos they find but I suspect that just releasing the photos into the wild, so to speak, would be just as satisfying.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:59 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


hee hee ! this is good !
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:24 AM on May 2, 2008


In the old days when we had real standards, there was graffitti
posted by Postroad at 5:27 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


hahahahah I've done this so many times at Disney and other places with faces like these. This is honestly one of my favorite pastimes, although I prefer making it look like I actually belong in the picture, so I look like a missing family member/friend that no one knows about.
posted by Mach5 at 5:30 AM on May 2, 2008 [5 favorites]


Mach5, you made my kitty throw up on the monitor.
Please send Handi-Wipes and 409.
posted by Dizzy at 5:58 AM on May 2, 2008


Those complaining about the high art of the "ruining" of photos (as per first definition) have no sense of humor at all.

I'd love to come home after a vacation to find such a surprise treasure hidden in my own photos. The chaos is beautiful.

Alas, no random wild men in the background yet.
posted by rokusan at 6:11 AM on May 2, 2008


Doesn't anyone else recognize the inevitable mashup of these two ideas?
posted by blue_beetle at 6:34 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Done by Maxim magazine years ago.
posted by spicynuts at 7:04 AM on May 2, 2008


If this picture was being spoiled, then the person framing the picture was a bit of an idiot.

I mean, the "real" people only occupy the bottom third of the frame, fer chrissakes.

The guys in the background must have been intended to be in the picture, but they must've at the last minute changed into their mock 3-way.

Regardless, looks like a good way to make a nuisance of myself the next time I'm out.
Either this, or doing a Lynndie.
Both come with equal risk of getting one's ass kicked. =P
posted by Tbola at 7:06 AM on May 2, 2008


so I look like a missing family member/friend that no one knows about

I like to pull that one when I see people taking big group photos at tourist attractions-- the steps of the Lincoln Memorial are a perfect site for this. When everybody's lining up, I'll get in the back row and just stand quietly, utterly unnoticed until someone looks at the photos and says, "Who's that guy? Was he with us? I don't remember him." It's great fun.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:17 AM on May 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's great fun.

Dude, you're living the dream!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:42 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Grand Central in New York is also a really fun place for this. Trying to time the flash of the camera just right as your walking by is a great challenge. (I need another hobby.)
posted by yonyonson at 8:21 AM on May 2, 2008


A friend and I were playing frisbee on the law quad at U-of-M when we were in high school. Then some folks came in and started setting up hot tables and chairs. Unbeknownst to us, it was the law school's graduation. So families were there, all in their finery, with gowns and mortarboards and suits. My pal and I are in hawaiian shirts and shorts, screwing around and sneaking free food.

First, we tried getting into the background of the family portraits. Then we realized that the best approach was to have one of us say, "Hey, why don't you let me take the picture—then you can all be in it," while the other one moseyed up behind. We ended up taking 30 to 40 pictures, all with one of us standing next to the family or making faces behind them.

Truly, something for those families to remember the rest of their lives.
posted by klangklangston at 8:46 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'll get in the back row and just stand quietly, utterly unnoticed until someone looks at the photos and says, "Who's that guy? Was he with us? I don't remember him."

I go a different route. When I see people gathering together for a photograph, I like to position myself right next to the photo-taker with my camera and start snapping pictures of his family and friends.

That is great fun.
posted by quin at 9:23 AM on May 2, 2008



Anecdote 1: My wife once went to Taipei to visit a friend who was teaching English there. Visits temple (don't know which one, I wasn't there). Takes lotso photos (analog -- this was the 1980s). Comes home, has photos developed, and dang, if there isn't some guy in nearly every photo inside and outside the temple, humourlessly watching her. In one he is literally peeking around a column at her. A gov't agent? A con man casing her? Never found out, but he's in like 6 or 7 shots.

Anecdote 2: We're in Wellington NZ, trying to take photos/video of the lovely Te Marae Te Hono ki Hawaiki at Te Papa museum and some guy keeps diliberately walking into the shot. I pan almost a 360 and he walks into the shot at least three times, ruining my video and about a third of my stills. Later I noticed that he has a large entourage, a lofty demeanor, and was pretty overdressed. Now I think he might have been some Asian dignitary who thought I was there to document his visit. This may account for his exasperated expression as he tried to keep up with my panning while I tried to stay ahead of him! I'll never know for sure, because neither of us spoke a word.

Anecdote 3: It's not photos, but it is guerilla art. There used to be (1980s) a dozen or so cartoon faces -- just eyes, mouth, and nose with no head or body -- painted on the sidewalk in various places around Ann Arbor, Michigan. They don't make any sense by day, but by night, each is strategically placed so that the street-light shadow of adjacent twin parking meters casts a shadow over the face. The painted features plus the shadow creates a perfect Mickey Mouse, ears and all.
posted by Herodios at 9:40 AM on May 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Faint of Butt writes "I like to pull that one when I see people taking big group photos at tourist attractions-- the steps of the Lincoln Memorial are a perfect site for this. When everybody's lining up, I'll get in the back row and just stand quietly, utterly unnoticed until someone looks at the photos and says, 'Who's that guy? Was he with us? I don't remember him.' It's great fun."

Shaun Majumder, in character for the CBC comedy "This Hour Has 22 Minutes," snuck into the old timers' team picture (lower left in blue)during the NHL's outdoor game in 2003 and the NHL had absolutely no sense of humour about it at all.
posted by Mitheral at 10:04 AM on May 2, 2008


Ruining other people's photographs? Or improving them?
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:14 AM on May 2, 2008


Friends of mine have been doing this for years and calling it photodiving. Here is their livejournal community.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:23 AM on May 2, 2008


Hm. I had kind of assumed that the photos from the first link were taken from Facebook and then photoshopped.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:41 AM on May 2, 2008


I don't have the photographic evidence on me, but this post culls up a memory that just fits this "Bombing" phrase to a tee.

In high school, many moons ago, there was a real big kid. Huge kid, really -- wrestler. Won some awards I think. Anyhoo, like many high schools, when yearbook time came around, they hired a photographer to come in for a day and photograph all the groups / clubs / teams / etcetera for the book.

So this day comes, and the auditorium is setup so a steady rotation of groups come in, line up, get photographed, and head back to class. Worked that way for several years, probably still works that way today. So anyway, this particular year, I don't know why, but there was no one teacher involved in administrating the event. It was just some sort of chaos where groups lined up, shot, came down, rinse repeat. A few enterprising folks, like this big wrestler guy -- let's call him Greg -- start sneaking into groups just to be in the shot. For the most part it's pretty harmless, and everyone enjoys the joke, so when the metal rocker kid in stands in for the Chess Club photo -- well, it works, and it's good clean fun.

Here's another aspect of Greg. Good hearted or not, he was a big beefy kid, truly dominating most folks around him, and he liked to make game with the ladies. Nothing really classy about it, just, for giggles, hey girl let's go to this room. Hey girl let's see that shirt off. Hey, girl, where's your boyfriend? He was known for it. Not in a mean, malicious way, but you know, he had his hormones running and he always advertised.

In my scrapbook of years gone by, I have one page torn out of that yearbook. It's a shot of 8 or 9 girls representing NOW, or whatever the high school equivalent -- Junior NOW? -- it was. It's a shot of 8 or 9 girls, and this huge beefy wrestler right behind them, smiling widely.

Kills me every time I see it. It's not just the visual juxtaposition, but the actual history behind it. Layers upon layers.
posted by cavalier at 11:43 AM on May 2, 2008


We're drifting farther from the topic now, but cavalier's story reminded me of my own high school days. As a freshman, full of enthusiasm and hope for a bright and glorious future (now long since destroyed, of course), I thought it would be a good idea to found a Star Trek Fan Society. As it turned out, I did manage to scrape together a few other nerds, so we held a few meetings and fundraisers. We never actually accomplished anything to speak of, but it had its moments. At the end of the year, I made sure that we'd get our picture in the yearbook along with all the other clubs, and when the club's five or six members posed for the photo, about thirty other people showed up and posed with us. If you judge the club based solely on that photograph, damned if it doesn't look like we were one of the biggest student groups in the whole school.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:28 PM on May 2, 2008


Heh. Cavalier, we had a guy exactly like that in our high school (if you'd said Dave instead of Greg, I would have assumed it was the same person). His senior year ambition was to be in every group photo, and he was, including the Black Students Union.

Last I had heard of him was him getting a job in the White House as his first summer internship when he got to college, and we always assumed that he was somehow behind the whole Monica Lewinsky thing.
posted by klangklangston at 2:11 PM on May 2, 2008


Dave WAS Monica.
Such soft hands.
posted by Dizzy at 3:53 PM on May 2, 2008


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