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How Much The Viral ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ Meme Earned Its Photographer Creator

By Yoon Sann Wong, 19 Sep 2017



Composite image by DesignTAXI. Background image by Antonio Guillem via Shutterstock

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would’ve seen this meme dubbed ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ that went viral late August, according to Google Trends.

What many of you probably don’t know is the creator behind the image that started it all. 45-year-old Antonio Guillem is the photographer to credit. Hailing from Barcelona, Spain, Guillem’s spent the last five years “working 16 hours a day on the advertisement photography business,” capturing graphics mainly for microstock agencies. Today, his operation sells on average 1,600 images a day, but this wasn’t always the case.

“We started without having any kind of idea of this business and I didn’t even know a thing about photography,” explained the professional advertising photographer who, three-and-a-half years later, can say that his team’s “one of the top sellers [as] microstock photographers in the world.”

Following this photo’s explosion in popularity online, Guillem sent out a statement to reporters explaining the situation. “I never thought that one of my images will be that popular… I didn’t even know what a meme is until recently, when the models started to tell me about the memes that people were doing with our work.”

According to the photographer, ‘Distracted Boyfriend’—originally known as ‘Disloyal man walking with his girlfriend and looking amazed at another seductive girl’—has sold around 700 times a year. It was originally taken in 2015. Clearly, online popularity does not translate to real-world gains. Compared to Guillem’s top-selling images, which can achieve nearly 5,000 to 6,000 sales annually, this meme contributes but a blip to profits.

“Memes haven’t given any [of] us any kind of economic profit because most of the images haven’t been sold on the microstock agencies, they are being used without purchasing the proper license on those agencies.”

“The sales that are related with the memes are probably a 0.00000% of our monthly revenue. It’s not relevant.”

Even though the photo has been shared myriad times across social media by users who haven’t officially purchased it, this doesn’t bother Guillem.

He explains that these meme creators “are just a group of people doing it in good faith, and we are not going to take any action, except for the extreme cases in which this good faith doesn’t exist.” By this he’s referring to the visual being edited in an offensive or disrespectful way that reflects poorly on him and the models. “I’m talking, for example, about the image where their faces are changed by a dog face, a garbage bag, and a dog food bag.”

“Regarding what I think about the photo [going] viral, I think the image was a good foundation to whoever had the great idea to turn it into a metaphor that works for almost everything. And that’s not our merit.”

Since Guillem often works with the same models, netizens discovered that the photographer’s portfolio features photos that appear to follow a flowing narrative, somewhat similar to a soap opera, thus inspiring humorous follow-up memes. Enjoy these, plus highlights of ‘Distracted Boyfriend’ below. You can browse through Guillem’s portfolio on his website or on Shutterstock.




Image via penguinrandom

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[via NYMAG, background of main image via Shutterstock]
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