Ask the Ermahgerd Girl – if you post a weird picture on the internet, you could easily become a meme.
What happens though, when you’re scrolling the internet, and you come across your perfectly ordinary picture, used tons of times, in a number of different ways, without your consent? This is what happened to Shubnum Khan.
Khan was horrified to discover herself depicted in McDonald’s ads in China, India and South Korea, on a French dating website, and in a promotion for a trek in Cambodia. She isn’t a model, nor was she paid for her pictures.
She recounts her cautionary tale in a viral Twitter thread which you can read here.
The Mail & Guardian reports on her story:
In 2012, a friend living in Canada posted an image on Khan’s Facebook wall. The image was an advert promoting immigration in a Canadian newspaper. Her friend commented on the fact that the person in the picture looked just like Khan.
Before Khan had even had a chance to check Facebook, a debate about whether the woman in the picture actually was Khan was already raging in the comments.
Here’s the ad and the tweet:
So today I’m going to tell you the story of How I Ended Up with my Face On a McDonald’s Advert in China – A Cautionary Tale. Six or so years ago, a friend in Canada posted a pic on my FB wall to say she found an advert of me promoting immigration in a Canadian newspaper. pic.twitter.com/QJ0nWpYNmQ
— Shubnum Khan (@ShubnumKhan) July 28, 2018
Khan started digging and found a number of ads that used her image, including this one for Dermolyte:
This one is particularly dodgy. Not only has her image been used, but it’s also been photoshopped and attributed to some women called Dina.
Hey, at least she didn’t end up on the ‘darkest stock photos of all’ list.
“The testimonials are the most shocking for me,” Khan told the BBC:
“I thought I understood how stock images work, you know, like having a picture of a house to illustrate a house.
“But it was so dishonest, I never knew you could use stock images with false testimonials and fake names.”
The ones that bothered her the most were where her blemishes were edited out for an after-photo promoting a beauty product and when her name was changed with a fake history of post-pregnancy melasma.
Turns out, Khan did a photo shoot when she was still at uni in exchange for some professional shots:
Two years earlier, a 24-year-old Shubnum and some university friends had gone to a free photo shoot she had heard about called the 100 Faces Shoot.
The photographer promised 100 people professional portraits in exchange for being snapped.
“I thought the picture would be used for his portfolio, or an art project,” recalls the now 33-year-old author. “People remember hearing mention of an art project.”
“It’s very quick – you sign a piece of paper, you go in, the photographer says smile for a picture. It is quick but I definitely was not told it would be for a stock picture.”
Now she’s everywhere and trying to get her pic off of the web.
Three lessons, people: Don’t trust artists, the internet lies, and be careful what you sign.
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