A Romantic Couple Photoshoot with Pizza
In 2015, a fellow student at the University of Lethbridge, Nicole Larson, reached out to me and proposed a hilarious idea. She explained that she wanted to do a couple photo shoot with pizza, to parody the countless photos that our friends in relationships would post online.
To some people, this might sound like a weird or absurd idea, but I fell in love with the concept. Not only was it funny and relatable, but it also motivated me to get creative with photography. I could instantly picture a romantic park, sitting on a park bench, enjoying autumn with a large cheesy pizza. So that’s what we did.
We were laughing the entire session. We joked light-heartedly that the photos should go viral, but neither of us thought that the response would be so huge, so fast, and so positive. We were just having fun with her idea, and giving the pizza box as much character as possible.
The Underlying Message
Nicole’s idea was to have a parody couple photo shoot with pizza. But her idea is actually a lot deeper than that. She explained that she wanted this photo shoot to have a message of empowerment; to promote body positivity and not needing a boyfriend to make you feel loved.
In an interview with the Huffington Post in the days following the photo shoot she said, “Everyone seems to be caught up in trying to find a partner but I would just encourage others to find/do anything that might brighten their day! If that is a boyfriend, great! If it’s eating a full box of pizza to yourself, that is also great!”
A Viral Photoshoot
When Nicole initially uploaded the album, friends were delighted with her unabashed humour regarding her relationship status, and began to share the photos. An hour later, Nicole commented on the album exclaiming that the album had been shared 344 times. I assumed she was joking, but the next morning the Internet had exploded with the sharing of the album, and we both were shocked when it hit 3.4K shares by noon. After two days, the album had amassed 40.1K + shares, millions of views over a multitude of social platforms, floods of positive messages from people all over the world, and features in articles by journalists from outlets such as the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed.
As soon as the album broke 4K shares on Facebook, we were both being contacted by individual fans and journalists internationally, and as our reach widened, we even gained some celebrity attention. Justin Bieber’s favourite comedian, Chris D’Elia wrote a comedic segment inspired by the photo which gained it’s own attention, and actress Zooey Deschanel and reality show celebrity DJ Pauly D, both enthusiastically shared the photos with their fans. We took part in television interviews with Shaw TV and Global News, and were featured on Buzzfeed, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Distractify, Mashable, Indi88, 5News, Hello Giggles, Aplus.com, and on Tumblr, Pinterest, The Chive, Imgur, Twitter, The Berry, and Youtube. Someone created a post on the Ellen Facebook page, which garnered thousands of likes and hilarious comments. Pizza Hut of course was thrilled with this free advertising, and invited us for dinner with the owner, who presented a gift card for a copious amount of pizza, and a personal thank you.
The Internet Response
The reason that this particular photo shoot went viral was likely because it was so relatable to so many people. Everyone wanted to share a relatable snapshot with their friends, especially if they were single and loved pizza.
The response was more than we could have hoped for. As nasty and cruel as the Internet can be, almost everyone and everything we heard from and read online was enthusiastic and warm, and as the articles continued to be published, our inboxes filled with positive and uplifting (and often comedic) messages from international audiences. I was even asked to fly out and shoot a wedding in the Cayman Islands, by a groom who was excited by the shoot. The media was great about asking our permission to share photos, and I was amazed by how quickly they collected and published interviews to keep up with the explosion in popularity. We were also both pleasantly surprised that our names continued to be linked to the photos, as it is often the subject matter that goes viral, and the photographer and often the model are lost in the noise.
A Viral Photoshoot Experience
This experience was very eye opening to what it is like to have your work become a source of attention, and although we received a very positive reaction, the fast paced nature of a viral photo shoot is overwhelming. It provided me with a small insight into what it is like to be in the Internet spotlight, and as nice as the experience sounds, I don’t think I would welcome a second experience. People are quick to forget that there are real people behind every idea that is posted online, and are liberal with their opinions, both positive and negative, and of course there are always overly friendly fans that are excited to greet you in a private message. That being said, it was incredible hear from and speak with people who were enthusiastic about the project, and photographers internationally who were excited to collaborate and share ideas. Social media is a great platform to create and share work, and I appreciate the unique opportunity to experience a social connection on a grand scale.