For years, people have been sending David Farrier photos of his stock model doppelgänger – a man who appears in every advert under the sun, from gynecological practices to 3-for-1 pizza deals. So Farrier decided to track him down.
Every week I get a message from at least one person: “David, is this you in this advert?”
Here’s another example, from my very own brother!
This man is everywhere and it’s infuriating.
And I don’t know how best to describe the ads he’s in, beyond saying all of them promote the whitest, lamest, most millennial shit possible. Here he is again, in yet another advert:
Compare this with the real me, as per my Twitter profile:
It’s annoying for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it’s disorientating when people accuse you of being in adverts for stupid things like “Virtual Meetings” and joining a “Subaru mailing list” (I exclusively promote the Webworm mailing list, damnit!)
Secondly, if people assume I am in these adverts that’s fine, but if that’s the case I might as well actually be in the ad, getting paid those big bucks.
Like, technically, if I found this man — I could lock him in a basement (with plenty of food and water, I don’t want him to die) and take over his stock modelling job and actually be making some sweet bank — and it wouldn’t be any more embarrassing than it already is, because people think it’s me anyway.
So this lockdown, I decided to find myself.
I tracked most of the photos to iStockPhoto, and an account called Bojan89. There were very few clues as to the identity of Bojan89, who I assume was the photographer.
In desperation, I fired off a message to iStock. The contact form on the website only allowed 400 characters, and I think it’s fair to say I used those 400 characters to sound like an absolute lunatic.
Something along the lines of, “I need to find my twin, help me find my twin.”
I sounded deranged and I didn’t fancy my chances of hearing back.
With that dead end, I wondered if the handsome model, due to his overwhelming handsomeness, was doing modelling for any other photographers or agencies.
The photographer behind these snaps was called nd3000, and it turns out they were the one who’d taken the offending Subaru shot, “Happy family having fun time at home” — which apparently only cost $14 to download.
Fortunately for me, nd3000 returned much more helpful Google results. If my detective skills were on point, nd3000 — the person who’d taken my photo — was in fact someone called Andor, from Hungary.
Andor had also worked with the big boys over at Shutterstock — the mother lode of stock photos. His profile there described him as having “Positive vibes with a clear message”.
Looking through his portfolio, I couldn’t agree more. My double exuded positive vibes. They dripped out of every pore. It was truly disgusting:
As well as exuding positive vibes in the office, my alternate self was also vibing in the bedroom.
It turns out that Nd3000 also had a profile on Alamy, where my double also kept popping up. On there, the photos of my doppelgänger are tagged as being taken in Serbia.
Was my double Serbian? Or was he just in Serbia on August 21st, 2019?
Then I stumbled on the mother lode: Andor the photographer’s email address.
I quickly penned an email, trying to sound as sane as possible:
I hope this finds you well. I hope you are safe and well during this pandemic. I am writing with a slightly strange request. I am a journalist and documentary maker, and over the last year I keep getting people sending me photos of a man they think is me. I understand their confusion, because he does look exactly like me.
I have become very curious to talk to this man in order to find out a little about him, as I end up looking at his face at least once a week whether I want to or not.
After a big of digging I found out you have taken quite a few of his photos.
I am really hoping you can provide me with some clues. I don’t want to violate his privacy, but would love to talk to him over email perhaps, just out of my own curiosity.
Thanks so much,
And I hit send.
I’m going to be honest – I didn’t rate my chances. It was a better email than the one I’d sent to iStock at the start of this mess, but I still think I came across like a total creep.
I went up the road and bought a bottle of whisky, and when I returned I had a single unread email in my inbox:
I swigged some whisky.
And I waited.
I waited for weeks. Covid-19 got cleaned up in New Zealand. Overseas, it kept spreading.
Massive protests erupted in the United States over the police killing of George Floyd. My stock model stared back at me from broken windows.
And then, the stock model emailed me back.
His name was Marko, and he lived in Serbia. And being a stock model was his full time job.
Tell me a little about yourself. Do you have any good pets? What does life look like for you?
I am 31-years-old, and I am a proud husband and father of one little boy. In a break from those, I am model and stock photographer.
I really enjoy all those roles, so my daily routine consists of balancing between all that. At one point, I am learning about new photo editing techniques, while at another I am trying to prevent my son from touching the sockets. And sometimes it all happens at the same time!
And the next day is not like yesterday. I get up, get ready, go on a full day shooting and do my magic.
How did you get into modelling? That’s quite a glamorous thing to do.
I entered the world of modelling quite by accident. Nine years ago, one stock photographer asked my friend to recommend him a man with great smile for one shoot. It did not take much preparation for that, my parents did most of the work.
That one shooting grew to 30, and then the other photographers heard of me. In this way, my job as a stock model was expanding rapidly. By now, I have worked with more than 150 photographers in my country and from abroad, and have done more than 1200 shoots.
Some of them really were glamorous, but when you get into a pigsty for some shooting, you can’t be glamorous no matter how hard you try!
More specifically, how did you get into “stock photo” modelling?
I have never been to castings, or been a member of modelling agencies and schools. Right from the start, I have been mostly part of stock world.
Although I believe that I was born with certain talent needed for this job, after each set I learned something, and tried to be better at every next one.
By now, it became my lifestyle, so I can’t even go to a restaurant without paying attention to what the lighting condition is like, or to buy new clothes with brand names printed on.
What is the strangest shoot you’ve had to do? My favourites are you flirting and bonding in the office, and I think there’s one of you getting some action in bed. I am not a stalker, I promise. I just do my research!
The shoots themselves are almost never strange. The themes of the sets are everyday things that people do, but in order to present them credibly, we often embarrass ourselves in public places.
But if I had to single one out, the Oscar goes to my role of the gynaecologist! For the needs of that shoot, my wife was a “patient”. It would be even stranger if it wasn’t with her, but in any case I try to do my job as professionally as possible in whatever role photographers put me in.
So, people often send me photos of you in commercials, thinking it’s me in the advert, or that maybe I have a twin. I suppose what I want to know is, do you ever get mistaken for me? Famous host of Netflix’s Dark Tourist or maker of tickling documentaries?
It often happens that people send me photographs of people who look like me, but it seems that they haven’t looked for me in New Zealand yet!
I noticed that your followers on Instagram are the most persistent when it comes to the similarity of two of us, or you are simply my most famous twin.
Although people who know me have not yet discovered the similarity of two of us, those who are your fans have written to me about it. However, it’s very pleasant when people get mistaken me with someone who is as successful in their job, as you are.
Do you notice yourself everywhere? Are you being served adverts of yourself? Is that weird?
Yes, all the time. I don’t want to sound overpowering, but over time I’ve gotten completely used to it, so even people close to me don’t send me adverts with my face anymore.
In the beginning, it was interesting for me and everyone around me, now it is a part of everyday life. What still amazes me every time is when the advert with me on it is in enormous size — like an advert through the Dubai Mall building — or the fact that picture of me is in school books, so I can’t wait to see my kid’s reaction one day!
Do you have any control over what adverts you appear in? Or does anything go? Like, could your image be used in a commercial for something embarrassing like an advert for Quibi?
I don’t have that kind of control over the images. Once I fill out the model release, those images can be purchased for a variety of purposes. The only restriction that exists is the use of my face for pornographic or defamatory purposes.
As long as Quibi doesn’t deal with it, you can expect to see me there too!
Following on from that, I feel like people are worried sometimes about where their image is used — but you are everywhere. Like even in New Zealand, you are everywhere. Does that bother you, being everywhere?
I like being everywhere, because being everywhere is good for being everywhere in the future!
So, everywhere, here I come!
Do you think if my career in documentary making or newsletter-writing doesn’t work out, I could become a stock model? And do you have any advice?
I honestly think you’re doing well, but if you want to try yourself at stock modelling, I should first see how you laugh heartily with colleagues!
Joke aside, I would have a lot of advice for someone who is a beginner in this job, so one of my business plans is to train future stock models, to run some kind of stock modeling school.
You will get a discount.
Okay, last question: does it pay well? With so many photos of you out there, is it a good career, or more a part time thing?
A couple of years ago, I resigned from the company I worked for to be a full time stock model. So, being a stock model in Serbia can be profitable. Of course, it all depends on how often you work, which does not depend on you, so it can sometimes be uncertain, especially in the beginning.
The more you work, gain experience, and the better you are — the higher your fee can be. I love my job and I am very satisfied with my career. It’s nice to go to a job where people respect and appreciate your work.
Oh, one more thing. Do you ever get mistaken for Louis Theroux?
No. I am looking at his photos now and I would say that the only similarity we have is the shape of our glasses.
Thanks so much, Marko. I hope we can hang out sometime. If you make it to New Zealand, maybe you can do some photos in New Zealand. Or I could be your body double! Imagine!
Thank you for these questions, and interest for me and my job. It has been a pleasure to answer the questions and to be part of your project. Hope you like the answers. I am really looking forward to see it on the Internet.
It would be great to meet and collaborate someday. If I can help you with something else, please let me know.
Absolutely. My brain is already brimming with ideas. Talk soon. Stay in touch. And stay safe, Marko.
This article originally appeared in David Farrier’s new newsletter Webworm.
The Spinoff Daily gets you all the days' best reading in one handy package, fresh to your inbox Monday-Friday at 5pm.