It happened about four years ago when Brookside resident Mike Bender saw his mother hanging a particularly embarrassing family photo on the wall. “I figured if I have this awkward photo in my background, everyone must have them in their life,” Bender told the Larchmont Buzz. He and his buddy Doug Chernack threw together a website to “put their own skin in the game” and posted some awkward – and very funny – photos online.
The site took off in its first week when a radio DJ spoke on air about Awkward Family Photos (AFP) and Bender and Chernack woke up to over a million hits on their site. The site wasn’t built for that kind of traffic and quickly crashed. With some quick footwork they beefed it up, quit their work as a writing team for film and television, and have devoted themselves to bringing out the best – some may say the worst – of funny family photos into one place online.
Bender is in charge of the creative side of the site, sorting through 25-50 photo submissions a day and writing funny captions for the images posted online. “I believe I’ve looked at over 100,000 photos already, and I still laugh a lot,” Bender said. Chernack runs the business side of the operation creating website contests and campaigns, handling the advertising, and keeping the peripheral products alive, including books and a line of gift cards that are sold at Walmart, Bed Bath Beyond and Target.
“This third book, Awkward Family Holiday Photos, came together pretty easily as many awkward photos come from holiday cards,” Bender said. But they also get a lot of photos of people celebrating Valentines Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter and Halloween. Scrolling through the AFP website, you can’t help but laugh out loud at some of the oddball set-ups people create for a “holiday” moment. Seeing the funny antics and situations caught on film makes one want to spend hours scrolling through the site’s archives. Some of them are almost unbelievable.
Enjoying these cultural snapshots, many appearing to be dated from the 1970s and 80s, is not limited to just Americans either. Bender said that many of their 1.5 million unique visitors to the site each month come from other places including Canada, Sweden, Germany, Brazil, Great Britain, Russia and China.
Bender, married to Suchin Pak and with a 16 month old toddler in the house, said his own relationship with the camera has changed since the inception of Awkward Family Photos. “I’m a bit self-concious now about shooting our own family photos,” he said. “And when I got married I made sure there would be no poses!”
For those interested in putting their own nightmare of a photo forward for the world to see – consider the easy submission process online via the AFP website. We’d all like a good chuckle at your expense.