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7 Great Photobombs and Their Subversive Delights

Rob Walker
Tech Columnist
July 16, 2014

It would be easy enough to supplement my case for the digital-image supremacy of the photobomb with an overwhelming list.

But less is more. So here is a concise set of photobomb examples, along with what makes each both delightful and significant. Think of it as a mini-taxonomy of the photobomb idea — seven ways photobombs both undermine stage-managed images, both intentionally and accidentally, and seven ways photobombs make photographs better in the process.

1. The celeb photobombing celebs.

There are plenty of case studies to point to, but Benedict Cumberbatch makes an effective mockery of a red-carpet moment here: a great instance of an image-culture veteran knowing how to undermine image culture. Picture via BuzzFeed.

2. The celeb photobombing a fan.

A (presumed) Beyoncé fan was too busy taking her own picture to actually watch Beyoncé perform, but it turns out Beyoncé wasn’t willing to be ignored. Image via Daily Mail. (Thx, Alyssa.)

3. The celeb photobomber.

Can you spot Photobomb Girl in this picture? More of her Internet-famous work here.

4. The celeb-photobombing pol.

Politicians are photo-op fiends — and have engaged in their own version of strategic photobombing (planting themselves strategically around the president, for instance) for years. More recently, we’ve evidence of the presidential family photobombing one another.

But you have to give that sly dog Bill Clinton credit for mastering the game here — by photobombing a celeb. Politico did

5. The accidental photobomber who becomes a celeb.

Not everybody intends to be a photobomber — like this guy. But his cameo turned out to be an accidental masterwork, at least in the opinion of the Internet. “In The Way Guy” became his own meme, inserted via Photoshop into a variety of situations even less appropriate than this one. Image via BuzzFeed.

6. The accidental non-human photobomber.

To be clear: It is unlikely that animals act with the specific intent of undermining the authority of an image. However. The number of supremely successful animal photobombers — domestic and wild — is countless. And this subgenre reveals how wonderful the accidental photobomb can be. To represent it: a pug photobombing a corgi. Because, you know … pugs, corgis. Image via reddit. (Thx, Ben.)

7. The accidental non-human photobomber who becomes a celeb.

Wild animals photobomb all the time. Crasher Squirrel was among those who became a celeb — or at least a meme — as a result. But few have achieved the heights of this stingray, whose unexpected appearance in the mundane holiday documentation of some swimming tourists became a sensation. Even TheNewYorker.com felt compelled to weigh in!

One could argue that this demonstrates the profound delicacy and unpredictability of the photographic art, and its relationship to intention and chance, reality and theatricality.

Or one could say: That’s hilarious. Either strategy works for me.

Write to me at rwalkeryn@yahoo.com or find me on Twitter, @notrobwalker. RSS lover? Paste this URL into your reader of choice: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/author/rob-walker/rss.