Budding Agency Grows Stock Photos
by Chris Stamm
Minds expand in the shower. Maybe it’s the steam. Maybe it’s the white noise of water hitting tile. Could be the masturbation. Probably it’s the blessed ten or fifteen or twenty minutes of freedom from screens and husbands and friends and decisions about dinner. The nothingness. The nothing-but-me-ness in which a great idea can grow. The catch: great ideas usually aren’t great. No one really needs an e-cigarette that is also a keychain. The thought of dogs getting married is definitely hilarious, but you’ll never sell that screenplay for Til Death Do We Bark. And someone already invented a camera that makes phone calls.
Rare is the sodden and soapy flight that survives drying, but on January 8, 2015, Ophelia Chong stepped out of the tub with a viable scheme.
“I was in the shower, shampooing away, and I thought, is there a cannabis stock agency?” Chong explains. “So after I got out of the shower, I went online and looked around. I looked at Getty, I looked at Corbis, and looked at the quality of images they have. And I thought, you know, I can do better than this.”
So far, doing better hasn’t been much of a challenge. Chong’s fledgling company was fully funded within two weeks of her shower brainstorm, and when she officially launched Stock Pot Images on April 20 (natch), her field of competitors was pretty paltry.
“There aren’t any other strictly cannabis stock agencies,” Chong says. “If there are, they are very tiny or they just died on the vine.”
And while Alamy, which bills itself as “the world’s largest stock photo collection,” has thousands of cannabis images in its massive library, the photos chase a played out theme: that ubiquitous green leaf, the stoner synecdoche that has long dominated the visual culture of cannabis appreciation.
“People always think of the same marijuana leaf,” Chong says. “And so what I’m building is an education, too. This is what it looks like. It’s not the leaf. It’s the bud, the tendrils, male plants, female plants. All this stuff is Cannabis 101.”
Chong is counting on the burgeoning cannabis industry to initiate an era of widespread connoisseurship, and she is cultivating a stable of photographers who can capture the plant’s true beauty and meaning for tomorrow’s weed snobs, who will soon learn that the good green is not only not leafy — it isn’t even green.
“A really great bud is not really pretty,” she says. “It’s golden, brown. It’s cured properly. If it’s green, it hasn’t been cured long enough, so you’re not getting all the THC. You’re missing out on a lot of the flavor. So when you want a really good smoke, you want something that’s cured properly. People will be learning more about that.”
And an educated consumer is a harsh critic. Which means, Chong says, that “you can’t do fake.”
Just ask the Drug Policy Alliance, which celebrated 4/20 this year by releasing a crop of well-meaning but unintentionally hilarious stock photos featuring “real, everyday people” enjoying cannabis while pursuing such wholesome activities as Jenga, yoga, knitting and cooking. These pictures weren’t intended to impress the experienced users who greeted their release with gentle derision, but it’s hard to imagine the DPA’s bland aesthetic — part nursing home brochure, part KMart circular — winning the hearts and minds of the weed-wary. The cheery suburbanite tokers in the DPA’s photos look like dosed zombies, essentially mirroring the baseless fears they are intended to assuage.
Stock Pot’s growing image collection, which is fed by dozens of photographers with whom Chong splits commissions, does feature shots of casual cannabis consumption, but Chong and her affiliates are more concerned with the texture of the medicine itself, the spaces in which it grows, the vague vibes it might encourage when ingested.
A phalanx of green plants growing in purple light. Buds drying on a line. Four growers suited up HazMat style, tending to their crop. A black cat chewing on a plant that is not catnip. A beetle sizing up a choice nug. Fibrous kush sprouting warm orange tendrils. These are snapshots from a world that looks very pleasant and temperate and way fucking relaxed. No one’s freaking out. No one looks annoying. No one’s playing Jenga. Who wouldn’t want to visit.
There’s some work in the teen stoner tradition as well, because there’s probably a law against distributing cannabis-related art without including at least one kaleidoscopic mandala, but the majority of Stock Pot’s offerings belong to the tradition of food photography. You should want, Chong hopes, to invite these colors and shapes into your body. Immediately.
“We want to shoot it so that it makes you drool,” Chong says. “I want to create desire. Images are supposed to create desire.”
All images from stockpotimages.com
From K. Mike Merrill: I didn’t write this, I’m just publishing it. This is for a new magazine called Pot Dads. Legalization is taking marijuana mainstream and the prevailing alt-culture of weed is going to become normal. At Pot Dads we are excited about an integrated weed lifestyle.
(And no, you don’t have to be a Dad to read Pot Dads, it’s just a fun name.)