If there’s a fact you probably don’t know about me yet but should, it’s this: I friggin’ love stock photos. Stock photos are air in my life, a way to express emotion vicariously through someone else’s ideas, a way to express a basic idea with just a few pictures, and a way to simply add elements to any photoillustration idea that comes to mind.
And to me, the greatest stock photo resource ever created is a wonderful dog named Chico. He’s a mainstay of any stock photo site you’ve ever seen, who often shows up in this uncanny valley between real photo and clear Photoshop. Sometimes you’ll see Chico on a surfboard wearing a Santa hat and sunglasses. Other times, he’ll be ready to check your heartbeat or watching Netflix on a generic iPad-like tablet. He also appears in numerous contexts I don’t mention in this paragraph.
Chico represents the vanguard of modern stock photos. His images come in the hundreds, if not thousands. They’re sold relatively inexpensively, just like every other photo you find on iStock or Shutterstock. And they’re everywhere. I’ve seen Chico on billboards, on packaging, and especially, on ads all over the web. This dog has a face that was built for the camera.
So where did Chico come from? Simply, he’s the primary model for German photographer Javier Brosch, who has made a career for himself in the stock photo scene. His Chico story:
A few years ago I met Chico, my dog. He is a loyal friend and became my very best “model” for all my creations and photos. Since then he’s actually become quite famous but he’s still down to earth and always ready to go running with me up and down the Isar River. Simply the best.
Looking at Brosch’s Shutterstock page, it’s clear that Chico has enabled him an impressive career as a dog photographer, but it all started with the Photoshop-and-posing pictures of Chico that have become his calling card. (As you may have noted by looking at my Twitter feed, I’ve mentioned that I’ve tried to reach out for an interview multiple times, to no avail. Too bad. Consider this, instead, a love letter, rather than a piece of journalism.)
Two decades ago, American culture was changed forever by the existence of a dog that sold fried flatbread by the armful. Gidget, the lead chihuahua character of Taco Bell’s late-’90s campaigns for gorditas and chalupas, among other things, became perhaps the most famous dog on television since Lassie. When Gidget died in 2009, it was news.
Grumpy Cat, also a well-merchandised pet, has become an memetic force in her own right—one that many others have followed since.
But Chico is in his own category. I think, in some important ways, he represents the next stage of the famous pet—someone who loans out his identity to be used by anyone with an extra couple of bucks lying around and a basic need. He’s a stock photo dynamo with an owner who is basically a genius at sharing his poses, one image at a time.
In the future, our models will sell their pictures to everyone, one photo at a time. They will become celebrities because they’re everywhere, and their photos are inexpensive. Rather than selling to one outlet for $5 million, they will sell to a million outlets for $5. And they will be rich.
I for one, welcome Chico as our new canine overlord. His facade is way better-looking than all the other dogs on Getty Images.