This rather amusing compilation of stock photography from The Hairpin demonstrates a silly convention in commercial advertising: “Women Laughing Alone With Salad”. (See also: Women Struggling to Drink Water, This Pile of Bills is Making Me Touch My Head and Men Laughing Alone With Fruit Salad.) Like a word repeated until it begins to sound bizarre and nonsensical, these familiar generic images begin to feel weird and unsettling when viewed in succession.
Seen altogether, this collection of generic pictures exposes how little we scrutinize the meaningless (and yet, so meaningful) imagery we are bombarded with in contemporary culture. What is really troubling about these women laughing alone with salad is how normal they seem. In real life, if I threw on my generic cotton tee, slathered on a face full of make up and started maniacally laughing over a bowl of undressed lettuce, I would seem insane. Yet, these images present a convincing idea of what the healthy, happy, “normal” woman should look like (and what they should eat). I know these collections of generic photographic tropes were compiled as a funny observation about the world of commercial imagery, but they really drive home a rather serious point. For me, they sum up one of the reasons why I think contemporary art is culturally important: it attempts interrogate and offer an alternative to this kind of empty imagery that saturates mainstream culture.
“Women Laughing Alone With Salad” also reminds me of the very funny 9 Things I Learned About the World According to Stock Model Photography from the always irreverent Maddox (The Best Page in the Universe). My favourite observations from his list include “Hot curly haired black women go moist for wireless broadband routers and mainframes”, and “One-handed, one-knee laptop bullshit is the preferred way to get work done”.
Elsewhere on the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things: