The Stock Photo Model That Wanted To Remain Anonymous

A caption of the "Ariane - The Overexposed Stock Image Model" facebook page (click to see more)

A caption of the “Ariane – The Overexposed Stock Image Model” facebook page (click to see more)

In December 2014, I took part in a debate about crowdsourcing in which one of the attendees, a professional photographer, said that stock photography lowers advertising quality. He wasn’t totally opposed to the concept of crowdsourced stock photography, but said that it leads to lower quality as the diversity of visuals is poor. While I haven’t studies the topic it depth, he has a point, and here’s an example: Ariane.

You MUST have seen her in the last years! “Ariane is so ubiquitous, she has probably entered your subconscious at some point,Placeit notes; even at eYeka we’ve been guilty of it (see here or here). Here’s an example of “technically the most famous model in the world” which is used in hundreds of ads across the world.

You know who I’m talking about:

And here’s a cool music clip with Ariane in it (among many other stock photo models):

The internet has created a Tumblr about Ariane, another Tumblr, an Ariane Facebook page with over 10,000 fans, another one with less fans (she had an official account, but deleted it), an free Ariane eBook, an Ariane Reddit thread and so much more. Obviously I’m not the only to have noticed her. Here she is, in real life, illustrating an article by Glamour Fashion:

Meet Ariane

I did a bit of research and, while it’s easy to find post about her, it wasn’t easy to get down to original, genuine articles written about her. I found just one: this print article from by Esquire Philippines in April 2013. Meet Ariane, the child of a French-Canadian dad and a Chinese mother. She grew up in Canada, has a law degree, did fashion editorials (for Cosmopolitan and Marie-Claire China) and modeling on the side of her studies. But she found it too serious, and decided to make stock photography to be able to smile: “It’s actually something I felt was missing from my modeling contracts,” she explained to Esquire’s Mike Aquino. “It was always serious, no smiles, when me, I like to smile so much!

My modeling contracts were always serious, no smiles, when me, I like to smile so much!” (Ariane)

Image via

Image via

We don’t know much more about her, beside the fact that she runs the stock photo business with her boyfriend and both of them produce around 500 images a month, as Evana Ho notes. Under the pseudonym Ariwasabi, they sell their photos – they produced more than 4,000 as of today – to media outlets, agencies, and companies who seem to like her smile.

What makes her success?

What makes her success? Esquire says that her Eurasian look is probably the best explanation: “The Model seems to have made an even bigger splash in advertising-saturated Singapore, where the combination of tightening marketing belts and a love of Eurasian talents has guaranteed her presence almost everywhere you look.

The combination of tightening marketing belts and a love of Eurasian talents has guaranteed her presence almost everywhere you look (Esquire)

Evana Ho also says “She’s clearly Asian, and she’s beautiful, so her appeal to an Asian market is not unusual.” But obviously she isn’t just present in Asian countries, where the Eurasian looks might explain her omnipresence, as the commenters of the Esquire facebook post about Ariane indicate.

ariane stock photo article esquire facebook comments

When Esquire’s Aquino asked her about her “fame” back in 2013, asking whether she would like it, she said: “I would love it! I think seeing myself on a big sign anywhere in Asia would make me feel I achieved a personal goal.” But the same article also said that the people behind the model, namely Ariane and Martin, like their privacy. Evana Ho said that “Ariane seems to guard her privacy fiercely and doesn’t show any signs of wanting to go from working for herself to joining the regular modelling world. It’s like she’s trying to remain as anonymous as her photos need to be.

She’s trying to remain as anonymous as her photos need to be (Evana Ho)

Well, I think she succeeded quite well, as the Esquire article still is the real piece about her out there. This blog post, as well as the other ones that sought to discover who she is, doesn’t reveal much more. But there is no reason her photos will stop flooding our free magazines, street billboards and computer screens. Which makes us come back to our original point: is stock photography impoverishing our visual media environment?

Is stock photography bad?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I am not a professional photographer, and as a marketer I see the tremendous resource that stock photography represents to illustrate our stories. This pool of visuals, created by amateur and professional photographers, have make presentations and ads much nicer to look at. But as everyone uses stock photography platforms, and non-exclusive cheap licenses make them available for more people, the same popular images keep coming up. And the stock photo sites’ algorythms also play a role to make popular photos surface over and over again: The child superhero, the business superhero, the running businessman etc. I think it’s up to marketers to stay creative by carefully choosing their illustrations… and maybe Ariane will have enough of stock-photo-smiling one day.

I think it’s up to marketers to stay creative by carefully choosing different illustrations

Who would use the Fat Santa pinching his nipples? Our the Trout hand? Or the man sleeping on a cake as pillow? Or a female Hitler peeling potatoes? See more here. I still prefer Ariane.

Update (July 23rd 2015): I’m adding this interview of Ariane, published in May 2015, in which she gives her real name (Rebecca Givens) and shares the links of her official Facbook page and her health blog, called Radiant Peach. So she didn’t want to remain anonymous after all… or she just thought there was no point not to use her fame!

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