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After friends advised her to start a Tumblr about something, author and Funny Ha-Ha cofounder Claire Zulkey created Obesity Stock Photos: an archive of photographs used to illustrate articles about one of America's most popular health conditions. "The subject of people being used to illustrate stories on weight has always struck me as weird, and something I intended to blog about, and Tumblr/Google alerts just made it easy to do," she explains via e-mail.
Each post includes a photo plus a link to the article where the photo was used. There's no commentary. While some of photos are posed, others are candid street photos of people out in public who just so happened to fit someone's definition of obese. "Every now and then I'm surprised by what the people who posted the stories consider 'overweight,'" Zulkey says. In some photos pudgy subjects don't look to me like they fit the definition of obese (exceeding one's "normal" weight by 20 percent or more). But maybe my idea of obesity has become more liberal as waistlines have expanded over time.
Zulkey says the point of her Tumblr is to raise questions about how the media illustrates such stories, not to criticize the subjects or promote any sort of health agenda. She doesn't post pictures in which actual people are identified, and has disabled the comments function to preempt insults. "I'm aware that some folks see it as mean-spirited," she says. "I see where they're coming from, but I didn't start the Tumblr to make fun of the people in the pictures."