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Photobombing is a practical joke that involves trespassing and posing distraction in the background during a shoot, otherwise known as ruining someone else’s picture.
One of the earliest known photobombers--if not the first--was Rollen Stewart, also known as “The Rainbow Man,” who became a pop culture phenomenon in the late 1970s and early 1980s for wearing a rainbow-colored afro wig while holding up a sign reading “John 3:16” during live sporting events nationwide.
While the art of photobombing may well precede the history of the Internet (as supported by authentic photographs showing The Beatles members pulling the prank on each others in the 1970s), the prank most likely became a widespread phenomenon during the transition from traditional film to digital photography in the early 2000s, along with the emergence of photo-sharing communities like Flickr and Facebook a few years later.
The earliest known Urban Dictionary definition of “photobombing” was submitted by user U8IK on May 6th, 2008 and soon featured as the Urban Word of the Day on June 20th, 2008. Three days later on June 23rd, 2008, the Flickr group Photobombers was created for people to share their own photobomb exploits online. In the following years, similar definitions for “photobomb” and “photobombers” followed and the same word was featured again as the Urban Word of the Day twice, on December 5th, 2009 and September 28th, 2012.
Hundreds of additional examples of photobombing can be found on several image-sharing and hosting sites, including Photobucket, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram, as well as single topic blogs like Photobomb.net and internet humor sites like CollegeHumor, Funny or Die and Memebase among many others.
The technique has been also frequently applied in the realm of moving pictures, especially during live news reports or on-air events. Requiring a higher level of concentration and some sort of immunity to public eyes, one could arguably describe videobombing as a form of borderline performance art. Some of the more notable videobombers include Paul Yarrow and I Hate Iceland Guy.