The Bizarre Hellscape Of Coronavirus Stock Art

The Bizarre Hellscape Of Coronavirus Stock Art
Photo: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, a growing portfolio of dystopian artworks has engulfed popular photo marketplace Getty Images.

A premium subscription image syndicate for news organisations and product designers, Getty provides a mix of images of world events by photojournalists and… this sort of thing: a high-quality image of an iPhone screen against a blurred monochrome vacuum, illogically dominated by a corporate logo, engineered for maximum ambiguity so that it can be paired with any headline about an app or phone. The coronavirus images look similar, except they feature an enormous covid-19 capsid lurks in an aquatic background like a hoary alien space ball.

There are hundreds of such images made by a swath of creators, but one intrepid person, Budrul Chukrut, has uploaded no fewer than 373 to Getty’s archive, all bearing logos ranging from TikTok, the White House, and Air Canada to, bleakly, Carnival Cruise Line. Each image costs around $US500 ($814) without a Getty subscription, but it’s unclear how much Chukrut directly makes from their images. (We’ve reached out to Getty for more details and will update when we hear back.)

Chukrut is a major player in the stock image game; their collective works have appeared on nearly every news site, including CNBC, NPR, Fortune, and the Washington Post. (Chukrut’s more popular works are of the storefront signage variety.) For news organisations, including Gizmodo, these types of images are borderline useless—but when the subject of a story is an invisible virus and a largely faceless corporation, fuck it, sometimes borderline useless is the best you can do.

The coronavirus series has appeared across the blogosphere in the week since they were uploaded en masse. This is us, hypnotized by the hollow gaze of Colonel Sanders, oblivious to a covid-19 blob orbiting us in the fog of webspace.

Photo: Budrul Chukrut/Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty,Image: Gizmodo
Photo: Budrul Chukrut/Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty,Image: Gizmodo

Another theme shows virus silhouettes like fireworks, projected on a wall with a big SUPREME-style “CORONAVIRUS” logo. Who is this for? Someone checking whitehouse.gov at a covid-19 rave, perhaps.

Photo: Budrul Chukrut/Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty,Image: Gizmodo
Photo: Budrul Chukrut/Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket, Getty,Image: Gizmodo

Chukrut did not respond to our request for comment when Gizmodo reached out via his Hong Kong-based agency SOPA Images. So we’re left to wonder: Is Chukrut trolling us, manufacturing ominous headlines before we write them (“Coronavirus Leads to Catastrophic Hulu Outage”)? Or has Chukrut just codified Getty’s service down to an icy reflection of our grim news-scape? Probably the latter.