Apart from kangaroos, which can hop on two legs, humans stand out as the dominant bipedal mammal. Granted, animals like apes, bears, and some rodents can stand upright, but typically only do so for limited bursts of time. But are Homo sapiens really that good at living a two-legged life? If you take a look at the entertaining Instagram account People Standing, you’ll find that the answer is: No, we’re not.
Launched in 2015 by the Los Angeles-based TV writer Cam Tang, the popular Instagram account presents a gallery of hundreds of photos of people from around the world struggling to stand vertically (or succeeding, depending on how you look at it). The often relatable images highlight an incredible array of unusual, sometimes mystifying poses performed by people in public places. In many of these images, people appear to be searching for creative solutions to the problem of standing. This raises the question: Is standing a natural activity for humans? After all, we all begin life by crawling on all four.
In an email conversation with Hyperallergic, Tang recounted the eureka moment that led him to launch People Standing.
“I was standing in line behind my friend Beardo at the Texas state fair and I noticed he was slumped over the counter with this really pronounced lower back while on his tiptoes,” Tang wrote. “I was blown away … Like, here’s this adult so hypnotized by the idea of getting a deep-fried Coke he’s completely forgotten he’s standing like a toddler.”
Following this revelatory observation, he began paying more attention to people standing in ungainly positions and compiling photos of them. “We all do it, so it felt like most everyone could relate,” he wrote.
In time, Tang’s hobby Instagram account became an internet sensation, now boasting 155,000 followers. Tang says he receives around 100 submissions a week from across the globe. The account even received recognition from the fashion world as Tang was invited to participate in Paper Magazine’s 2020 “Break the Intenet” issue. A full spread in the magazine featured models in the latest season’s fashion mimicking the strange poses recorded on People Standing.
“The original idea was supposed to be a Gucci campaign but I think they got scared because they knew the @peoplestanding models would bust open all their expensive seams,” Tang related.
The account also features comical photos of celebrities caught in strange poses. One post compiled photos of former British Prime Minister Theresa May half-standing and half-kneeling in front of royals.
But not all people were happy to find photos of themselves in unflattering positions on the internet. “I’ve had a handful of submissions of one specific teacher who was constantly in wild poses who kept getting lit up by his class,” Tang recollected. “Word got back to him and he reported the photos.”
Expecting retribution, Tang added: “Every time I fire up my DM’s I think there’s a chance someone’s submitted a photo of me caught in a sick pose.”
What’s Tang’s next Instagram hit? You guessed it: People Sitting.
The account already exists but it’s not active yet. Tang, who gives the impression of a shrewd promoter, explained: “The rule is 10k follows before I start dropping. Stay tuned.”
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