For Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel, spam emails are more than just a nuisance filtered out of your email inbox every day; they’re inspiration.
After seeing an open call for work at a photo gallery in 2008, de Middel — inspired by those phony email requests for money — saw an opportunity to venture outside of her usual sphere of documentary photography.
She began saving her spam emails and soon amassed a collection of over 1,000 of them. Mining outlandish stories of Russian widows and Nigerian lawyers, she imagined how these characters in distress appeared and set about creating for her “Poly Spam” series.
“I started collecting these emails because I realised they could reflect the state of things in the world … from a very interesting point of view,” de Middel told Business Insider.
The real challenge arose when de Middel had to imagine foreign people and places. “I knew what a lion in the Kalahari looked like … but I had no clue how judges, barristers, and bank employees looked,” she said.
De Middel also discovered that pairing the emails with her photos changed how people saw them. Some people who saw the series asked ask how de Middel found time to travel the world to find these characters. The implausible emails — and photographs made in the studio — suddenly became believable.
As the first non-documentary project she did, it marked the beginning of a long learning process. “I realised I was full of clichés and stereotypes about the world myself and this was a subject that needed to be addressed,” she says.
De Middel has shared the incredible images and accompanying email texts with us here.
This image was inspired by an email supposedly sent by the grieving widow of a Russian oligarch, her life in danger due to her inheritance.
Here, a banker in the Republic of Togo is looking to dump a cool $18 million in the bank account of the lucky recipient.
For this photo, de Middel used an email apparently sent by a mystical Spanish psychic named Marisol.
This lawyer from Nigeria is looking to split a $3.5 million stash: 50% for him and 45% for you - minus 5% for expenses, of course.
Here is de Middel's interpretation of supposed British orphan Grace Smith's plight. The email states she is in desperate need of a husband so she may access her parents' fortune.
An English banker is keen on wiring roughly $47 million out of the country fast - he thinks it would be 'of much interest to you'.
In the Ivory Coast, the daughter of a deceased gold mining magnate is looking for a safe haven for her millions, or so this email would like you to believe.
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