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Stocking is a participatory photo fad in which people take pictures of themselves imitating various scenes from stock photographs. They are often shared online by placing the original stock photo directly next to the recreation for comparison.
While the market for stock photography has been steadily expanding since the 90s, an ironic appreciation for awkward stock photo clichés didn’t become widespread until Women Laughing Alone With Salad was posted via The Hairpin on January 3rd, 2011. In addition, stock images have been also used in advice animal image macros prior to the emergence of the photo fad. According to CBS News, the term “stocking” was coined by the software company projekt202 employees Dennis Van Huffel and Jamie Graham in August 2011.
“As anyone who has ever spent time looking for images for a project knows that this can be an extremely tedious and you come across some hilariously ridiculous images during the process,” Van Huffel points out. “Anyway, Jamie [Graham] was clearly exhausted from looking around and not finding the right image. I suggested that we make our own and as we talked about it, we decided it would funnier to recreate one.”
On August 18th, 2011, Huffel and Graham launched the “Stocking is The New Planking” Tumblr blog with a stock photo of a dark-haired woman pointing at a laptop screen accompanied by a man in a blue shirt. As suggested in the blog title, the idea stocking was inspired by the planking fad which began in March 2011.
A thread titled “Stocking is the new Planking. Get on board” linking to a series of stocking photos was posted to Reddit on August 25th, 2011, which reached the front page and accumulated over 4,900 up votes. Combining the mass appeal of photo fads and stock photo cliches, the “stocking” fad was soon picked up by various blogs, from UpRoxx and Slacktory to Jezebel, Gizmodo and Tosh.0. A Facebook fan page has 102 likes, and the @StockingITNP Twitter account has 126 followers as of April 2012.
On August 31st, the single topic blog hosted its first Stocking Challenge event, asking its readers to submit their own stock photo imitations for Amazon gift cards as winning prizes. Weeks later on September 15th, a group of friends in Australia staged a video tribute to an iStock video of people in office attire dancing rather awkwardly.
Search queries for related to stocking picked up in August of 2011, the same month the first Tumblr was created.